Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell tells Calgary to go for 2026 Winter Games

Calgary 2026 estimated the cost of hosting the 2026 Winter Games at $5.2 billion and asked the city

Gordon Campbell , B.C.’s premier when Vancouver and Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Games, says Calgary should throw its hat into the ring for 2026.

“I really hope you do it and I hope you win it and I hope I’m there for it in 2026,” Campbell told Calgary’s chamber of commerce Monday.

Campbell was B.C.’s premier from 2001 to 2011, from the bid phase to hosting the 2010 Games.

“If you get the opportunity to host an Olympics, that generates all kinds of economic opportunities,” Campbell said.

“Literally billions of dollars of investment that won’t come here if you don’t have the opportunity to host the Olympics. Billions.”

The impetus to get the 2010 Games started with the B.C. government in the late 1990s. The province was the financial guarantor for those games.

“I’m not here to tell you the Olympics will solve every problem that everyone has in this community,” Campbell said.

READ MORE: Calgary 2026 bid details to be rolled out as city gears up for plebiscite

“They will not. They will do an awful lot to lift the community up and see the solutions that are available to them and see what they can accomplish when they do work together.”

Since the bid corporation Calgary 2026 released a draft host plan Sept. 11, campaigns for and against bidding for those games have escalated on social media accompanied by several newspaper editorials.

Calgary 2026 estimated the cost of hosting the 2026 Winter Games at $5.2 billion and asked the city, province and federal governments to cover $3 billion of that

The remainder would be paid for via games revenues.

While the cost of the 2010 Games in Vancouver and Whistler was roughly $4 billion, the B.C. government’s spending on a rail line to the airport and a convention centre that were completed in time for the games brought the total to $7.7 billion.

Calgary city council has reserved the right to pull the plug on a 2026 bid, but won’t likely do that before a Nov. 13 plebiscite asking Calgarians if they want the games again.

“We’ve provided a tremendous amount of information including sharing the hosting plan, which is typically an internal document,” Calgary 2026 chief executive officer Mary Moran said. “We’ve provided them with a lot of information. The question should really be, do Calgarians have it in hand?

“We have to continue to encourage Calgarians to get informed and that could be through our website, public forums, could be talking to elected officials. I would highly recommend everybody get more informed.”

The International Olympic Committee executive committee meets Tuesday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The IOC will officially invite cities to the 2026 candidature stage early next week during a general session.

“We will know either the eighth or ninth of October if Calgary is moving forward with respect to the IOC making a decision on candidature cities,” Moran said.

The IOC’s deadline to submit 2026 bids is January. The election of the successful host city will be held September, 2019.

Against the wishes of Campbell and Vancouver organizing committee chief executive officer John Furlong, Vancouver also held a plebiscite Feb. 22, 2003 just weeks before the IOC voted for the 2010 host city.

The “Yes” vote prevailed with 64 per cent in favour of the games to 36 per cent against. About 46 per cent of the city’s eligible voters cast their ballot.

While the B.C. government was the initial ringleader of bidding for 2010, the province of Alberta is not out front on 2026.

Calgary 2026 is currently negotiating with the province, the feds and the city of Calgary on how much money each level of government would contribute to hosting the games.

The province has committed to providing its number 30 days prior to the plebiscite.

“Those discussions are taking place right now as everybody knows,” Moran said. “We hope to have a split. We’re working on financial tools to ensure there’s some kind of guarantee.”

Calgary’s chamber of commerce has yet to take a position on hosting the 2026 games.

Campbell drew the loudest applause from the business community when he referenced the oil pipeline that Alberta wants to build through reluctant B.C.

“Should there be a pipeline? Yeah, there should,” Campbell said.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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