Olympic future: an artist's rendering of a refurbished McMahon Stadium in Calgary is seen in this handout image, (HO Canadian Press)

Olympic bid depends on today’s vote in Calgary

Olympic fever is underway in Calgary, Alberta today but it’s just the first step, in a vote to decide whether to go ahead with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Many people in Calgary have a good idea of what’s involved in hosting the event as they remember the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The vote is not a binding one, technically, but without majority support it will not be easy to go ahead with the bid.

“We can tell a different story about Calgary”

Those behind the bid present the 2026 Games as the economic boost Calgary needs. The city was hard hit by the crash in oil prices in 2014.

“This isn’t going to solve all problems, but it can be a great launching pad for us to have a purpose — to more clearly define what our economic objectives are and to really start attracting people talent in companies here around the Games or delivering on the Games. So if you look back at ’88, it’s precisely what it did,” Mary Moran, CEO of the Calgary 2026 bid committee told the CBC’s Jamie Strashin.

Olympic decision: Calgarians are going to the polls today to voice their opinion on whether or not their city should bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Moran says the Olympics would allow the city to showcase “its evolution into a world class city” over the last 30 years.

“There’s a lot of activity that’s happening here that’s a bit of an untold story about Calgary,” Moran said. “I look at this as a platform. We’re on the global stage. We can tell a different story about Calgary and that’s the best thing that the Games provides us with.”

Several opposition groups maintain “the Olympics is the wrong idea at the wrong time”.

“1988 was a great time for Calgary, but it was a completely different time,” says Erin Waite, one of the organizers behind the opposition group, No Calgary Olympics.

Calgary’s ‘88 Winter Games, however, are widely considered among the most successful in Olympic Games history, as most of the venues, like the iconic Saddledome, are still in use by recreational and high-performance athletes alike.

The plan for the 2026 Winter Games is to “refurbish”  venues.

And over the last three decades Canada has emerged as a winter-sport power.

At the recent Winter Games in South Korea, Canada won 29 Olympic and 28 Paralympic medals.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce the winner in June 2019.

(With files from CBC and Canadian Press and The Globe and Mail)

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