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Plebiscite Results: Calgary says ‘no’ to hosting 2026 Olympics

The dream of Calgary hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic games appears to be over.

Despite a strong showing from organized ‘yes’ boosters, the ‘no’ side took the plebiscite with 56.4 per cent of the vote in the unofficial results.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that he was disappointed in the result, wanting a yes outcome.

“Ultimately, the people have spoken. The people have spoken in big numbers and the people have spoken clearly,” he said after the results were released.

“This is very clear direction for where we go from here.”

The final result according to Elections Calgary were 43.6 per cent voting yes, and 56.4 per cent voting no.

Despite high turnout at the early polls, voter turnout overall was lower than the 2017 municipal election. A total of 304,774 people cast a ballot in the plebiscite, while 387,306 turned out to chose their representative at city hall in October 2017.

Nenshi said he rejected the assertion that the debate had been divisive for the city.

“What we had were passionate people talking about the future of the community,” Nenshi said.

“Clearly, we’ve started a great conversation – the kind of civic engagement I like.”

In a prepared statement, Calgary 2026 board chair Scott Hutcheson said it is time to look at what could have been and how to learn from this for the future.

“I truly believe this was the best opportunity to unite our community around a new vision of hope, confidence and realize an extended legacy, inspired by the world’s best winter athletes,” read the statement. “Mostly though, it was about Calgary doing what we do best and that is pull together to achieve big dreams. So the key now is to take what we learned and keep asking that question: what is our next big dream, the next big project that will inspire us?”

Calgary 2026 CEO Mary Moran said the bid made sense, and it still makes sense.

“While the two words ‘thank you’ do not seem nearly big enough for the heroic effort by so many, we say thank you to everyone who took part and threw their heart and soul into this bid,” read Moran’s statement. “You never, ever lost hope and you made us proud every day. Hang onto that enthusiasm and share it in our community in some way to make it better.”

Calgary 2026 – the Bid Corporation which would’ve crafted the city’s bid book for the IOC – will wrap up its work in the coming weeks and provide financial and accounting information to the city.

Mayor Nenshi said that he expects that when council convenes on Monday they will have a quick debate and have a vote on the suspension of the bid for the Games.

Even though the plebiscite was non-binding, the result means the province will automatically revoke its offer of $700 million towards hosting, which was contingent on a successful plebiscite.

Ricardo Miranda, minister of culture and tourism, thanked Calgary 2026 for its work.

“Today was a success because Calgarians were given the opportunity to have their say on whether to proceed with an Olympic bid,” said Miranda in a release.

“This decision was never an easy one. Calgarians were provided the information they needed to make an informed choice and we respect their decision.

– with files from Darren Krause