Supporters wishing to bring the 2026 Winter Olympics to Calgary made it through another gate on Tuesday.
City council voted to move forward with a bid process and to hold a plebiscite on the matter in November.
Tuesday’s vote had been billed as the “final off-ramp” in the city council’s long-running debate about whether or not to host the games and it drew mixed reactions.
It came after the organization charged with exploring a bid announced that hosting the 2026 Games, including the Paralmpics, would cost $5.23 billion, including over $600 million in security costs.
That’s less than the $7.7 billion spent on the 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler.
(Calgary’s plan includes $900 million to refurbish old facilities, including the Scotiabank Saddledome, McMahon Stadium and the Olympic Oval, and to build two new facilities.
Vancouver spent $750 million on all of its new venues combined.)
But the $5.23 billion figure is already under fire by some economists.
Trevor Tombe of the University of Calgary, says the actual cost of hosting the Games will almost certainly exceed the $5.23 billion announced Tuesday.
And, the $7.4 billion in projected economic benefits, he says, have “absolutely” been overstated.
For some reference, Calgary hosted the 1988 games at a cost of $829 million, about $1.5 billion in today’s dollars.
The high cost of those games was anticipated, as organizers were aware at the outset of their bid that most facilities would have to be constructed.
Bruce Dowbiggin, author, sportswriter, broadcast personality and the host of the not the Not the Public Broadcaster website is a long-time Calgary resident and a lover of all things Olympic.
I spoke with him by phone at his home.Listen