An artist’s rendering of a refurbished McMahon Stadium in Calgary is seen in this handout image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation)

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson carries a volunteer medal from the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary with him these days.

His parents, Bob and Jane, relocated from Ontario for a month to donate their time at the Nakiska alpine ski venue during those games.

Bob recently sent the medal to his son, who hopes Calgarians feel its value as much as he does when they vote Tuesday in a plebiscite on whether or not they want the city to bid on the 2026 Winter Games.

“That’s what it’s about,” Hutcheson said Monday. “Giving your spirit, giving your all to a community. That’s what he did.”

The board chair of the bid corporation Calgary 2026 feels the plebiscite will be a close race between those who want to host another Winter Games eight years from now, and those who don’t.

“I think it’s a jump ball,” Hutcheson said. “Depends who votes, depends who gets out.”

READ MORE: The cost of Calgary hosting the 2026 Winter Games

The result may be non-binding on a Calgary city council that has the final say on a bid, but it will heavily influence its decision.

“Vote, regardless of where you stand,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said. ”Let’s make sure there’s a really high voter turnout so there’s an unambiguous decision on this.

“I hope people vote ‘yes’. I think there are many, many great reasons to keep this process going and to not let this opportunity pass us by.”

The cauldron atop the Calgary Tower began igniting last week at 8:26 p.m. for 20 minutes 26 seconds. The tower is a symbol of the ‘88 Olympics, as the relay torch was a replica of it.

The tower is an asset in Hutcheson’s commercial real estate company, but the former national alpine team skier says he’s not using it to ignite ‘88 nostalgia in Calgarians to favour another bid.

The pro-bid Calgary Hotel Association is sponsoring the lighting of the tower in the run-up to the plebiscite, as well as cauldrons at WinSport and the Olympic Oval, he said.

Calgary 2026’s mandate is to “promote a responsible bid.”

It became easier to do that, Hutcheson said, after the proposed cost-sharing agreement between the three orders of government became public less than two weeks ago.

“The bid is understood. That momentum is exciting, but it’s late,” he acknowledged. “If it were done three months ago, it would have left way more time to talk about what this means from an investment standpoint.”

In an estimated $5.1 billion total price tag, the federal government has committed $1.45 billion and the province $700 million.

The city’s share would be $390 million. Hutcheson wants Calgarians to see it as a small investment for a big return.

“I never expected this small an investment to work from our city at $390 million,” Hutcheson said. “I never expected they’d put that little an amount in and we’d be able to get the federal government and the province both in for a remarkable number that works. This deal to me is way better than what I would have pencilled in months ago.

“I respect that not everybody is going to want to vote ‘yes.’ But I would ask those that vote ‘no’ to make sure they have another community project in their mind that will make a difference. ‘No’ doesn’t build a community.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Three young Sylvan Lake residents are asking for lights to be added to the walking trail system to make them safer and less scary at night. Photo by @workinonmyfitness72
Young Sylvan Lake residents ask for lights to be added to walking trails

Three young Sylvan Lake residents appeared before Council recently to present their ask

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Town of Sylvan Lake recieves funding to help with COVID-19 related revenue losses

Minister Devin Dreeshen says the funding will help the Town pay staff and provide services

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo by The Associated Press)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

Most Read