All municipalities in Alberta and their ratepayers owe a debt of thanks to Calgarians who soundly defeated the referendum to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
Hosting the Olympic Games is financed primarily by the people and the spin of pride, legacy and spirit doesn’t wash well today as governments have more demands on tax dollars than they have tax dollars.
The Olympic Organizing Committee (OOC) needs to change. Not long ago competing countries plied gifts and bribes on OOC members to get their vote. Now, few countries are interested in the financial risk of hosting the games.
Left bidding for the 2026 games is Stockholm, Sweden without government support and two Italian cities in a country that is in financial ruin.
Today most games, especially the summer games, are hosted in countries led by autocratic leaders more interested in personal adoration than their people.
The Rio de Janeiro Olympics was a human rights tragedy. Poor neighbourhoods were ploughed under to sanitize the surrounding areas for foreign eyes.
Others were ploughed under to build transportation corridors to the venues. The estimate for the Rio games was $2.88 billion; the actual cost came in at $13.1 billion. Corruption among elected officials was rampant and Brazil’s economy and democracy cratered.
In desperation, the people have elected an ideological despot as President who has and will continue to persecute and murder thousands of opponents and people he hates.
In Calgary, the argument used by the ‘yes’ side was ‘Calgary needs the boost’ to bring them out of the oil industry doldrums. But let’s look at it another way.
Calgary has been the richest municipality in Alberta for decades, yet they have one of the oldest hockey arenas in the NHL (ironically helped built with 1988 Olympic dollars) and the oldest football stadium in the CFL.
Regina, Hamilton and Ottawa all built new football stadiums in the last decade. Edmontonians and Darryl Katz, the Oilers owner, built Rogers Center without provincial or federal dollars.
Then we look at Calgary’s legacy facilities from the 1988 Olympics and the Olympic Oval is one of the few facilities that wouldn’t need complete or massive reinvestment.
Not surprising, the defeated ‘yes’ side immediately blamed the Alberta NDP government for not giving enough financial backing to the Olympic bid. But, no matter how the truth is spun, the taxpaying people of Calgary spoke.
Today, they have other priorities for their tax dollars.
The Olympic Games are worthy of saving. It’s great for the athletes and wonderful for the spectators and viewing audiences. Calgary would have once again been a stellar host city for the Olympic Winter Games and by world standards, Calgary and Alberta are rich jurisdictions.
However, with Calgarians rejecting this bid, it sends a clear message to the OOC. The old model of funding Olympics on the backs of poor people in emerging economies and taxpayers in first world countries has to change