Calgary hosting the Olympics will be a disaster
author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
Sticks and roundabouts / nathan mccarville
Calgary 2026 bid must stop immediately
I think all of Canada was excited when the Olympics were held in Vancouver way back in 2010, when the country seemed to be buzzing with all the best international sport competition happening right here in our country. It brings national pride, a sense of wonder, and ambition for all of those involved. It was a fun time to watch some of the most memorable sporting moments in Canadian history. However, it came at a huge price.
The Olympics are famous for their outrageous costs, something that has become more of a concern in recent years. The governing body, the International Olympic Committee, has been notorious for its corruption and bribery scandals that is only rivaled by FIFA. In fact, hosting the Olympics is one of the worst things that a city can do to its economy. After the events are over, the hosts are left on the hook for hundreds of millions, even billions in some cases, of dollars in debt long after the events end.
You may say, “When Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics, the city didn’t have any debt.” That was the original report coming from the Vancouver Olympic Committee in 2014, saying that the games broke even with revenues and expansive at $1.9 billion a piece. However, the city did have a $630 million debt after the games ended, which they did pay off by 2014, but the way they did so was by selling the Olympic Village to the Aquilini Group for $91 million dollars, and the rest was paid out by the city’s taxpayers. Even though VANOC can claim the Olympics broke even, taxpayers were still on the hook for paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the games.
Which brings us to Calgary, who are, for some reason, looking toward hosting the Olympic Games in 2026. The city has been looking to host the Olympics again after the apparent success of the 1988 Olympics, the previous time the Olympics where in Calgary. The city council announced their efforts in creating an official build for the 2026 Games, with the mayor Naheed Nenshi promising that $4 billion is being invested into Calgary by hosting these games.
Yet, all evidence is pointing to the contrary here. Cities are left paying millions of dollars, with local taxes skyrocketing. Every single Olympics in recent memory has left a large debt that most cities are still struggling to pay off. So why would anyone in their right mind ever vote to host these games?
The actual proposal submitted from Calgary’s Olympic bid is laughable at best. The city itself does not have the resources or the money to outright pay for it, so Calgary will see a massive increase to its debt and property taxes, yet the proposal has no major municipal infrastructure plans, including slashing an affordable housing project which was promised by the Calgary Bidding Committee. The proposal is investing in private venues and contracts who which the IOC and media companies will benefit from the proceeds. The real kicker is that the City of Calgary will pay out of pocket for any budget overages, which has happened in every Olympic Games in recent memory.
As such, Calgary is about to decide to take on one of the most expensive and least-rewarding development projects in the world without having any actual development being done to the city. Nowhere in the proposal does the city plan to revitalize its aging LRT system (which still use the original 1960s era C-trains), a new fieldhouse for public use, or any new sporting complexes that are usually built during the build up toward hosting the games. The city even announced they intend on using McMahon Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, a stadium so old that it actually hosted the opening and closing ceremonies in the 1988 Olympics, which were exactly 30 years ago.
Its almost unfathomable how utterly terrible this proposal is for the city. The plan boldly claimed in its news release that the deal would see $1 billon in wages with 15,400 jobs created during the process. It even went out and claimed the most ridiculous claim in the city’s history, saying, “For every dollar Calgary invests, it gets $10 in return.”
Its statements like that, which are so unbelievably false and impossible, that become dangerous. The entire proposal is created on this one gigantic lie, promising a return of investment of 1000 per cent, while not even contributing to any actual infrastructure.
Frankly, it’s infuriating, as a former citizen of Calgary, that the mayor of the city, who stood up against the Calgary Flames and rightfully told them that their arena plan does not provide any benefits to the city, now goes and advocates for this proposal, which is worse. It honestly feels like a betrayal, because Nenshi is now supporting an Olympic bid that he should be against in full, based on his previous statements and stances.
If there is one shred of light in this situation, is that the bid is not formally submitted, yet. In fact, there is a plebiscite happening in Calgary on Nov. 13, and at the time of this writing, the vote is not yet determined. If anything can save this city from the nightmare that the Olympics will be, it is the voice of the citizens.
All I can do now is hope that Calgarians feel passionate about Calgary’s future, because hosting the Olympic Games will be a disaster for the city of Calgary.