Imagine this: you’re sitting back enjoying some well-deserved downtime at the end of another taxing day at work. That’s not to imply you toil at City Hall deciding which tax to increase or which service to cut, but rather that you’ve been working hard at your job to pay the bills and the ever-increasing dues at every government level.
The radio’s on and you hear an ad telling you about “an incredible, never-again-to-be-seen, outta-this-world deal”. There’s some loose reference that 30 years ago, this baby was the deal of the decade. “You’d be crazy to miss out”, super energetic announcer guy says, “‘cause with a little polish and just a few (was that billion… words get a little garbled as the plane full of IOC execs zips overhead), you should be proud to be a part of this blast from the past”.
Announcer guy continues (he’s got a lotta air in those lungs). “Ya better hurry down ‘cause this twice-in-a-lifetime experience is SOOO crazy it can’t last forever and sale ends soon”. Then he talks really, really quickly to get that legal stuff in at the end, but you catch something about “lots of conditions apply, costs will change, but you’s plays the games and you’s takes yer chances”.
“Wow”, you think, “that could’ve been an ad for the 2026 Calgary Olympic Bid”!
So, do you buy in? You can get your head in the five-ringed circus game and say “hell, yah”, or you can turn your back – and the radio off – on this incredible deal. After all, did announcer guy tell you all you need to know to make a decision? Remember Dad’s repeated warnings “that if a deal sounds too good to be true…”.
For the past few months, the Yessiree posse has told us that this is a great chance to relive and renew the Legacy that was the ’88 Winter Games. We’re reminded that back in those glory days, conditions weren’t ideal to consider hosting such an extravagant event, but the FOR argument outweighed the risk, and despite chinook winds and doubting minds, the Calgary games were and still are considered a success. Times have changed in the last 30 years. The past half-decade (give or take) hasn’t dealt a generous hand to our city, our province, nor our country.
Despite that, the argument for hosting the 2026 games continues to fall short, but not for lack of trying on the part of overzealous announcer guy. Over and over we’re told great stories about athletes coming to Calgary to train and then staying to raise families because it’s a great place. True, but what does it have to do with hosting a multi-billion dollar event that so many other worthy and eligible cities have turned their back on? What about the existing facilities (they’re usually referred to under the umbrella of “legacy”), others claim, that need these games to prop them up and extend their lives? Well, have any studies been completed to determine the cost to rejuvenate these facilities to ensure they meet the needs of Canada’s winter athletes for the next few decades? You could bet your last loonie those costs would be considerably less than hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
We could continue to debate these points, and the discussion would be healthy. But time’s ticking down. To this point, public engagement has happened largely via social media because there’s a breakdown at City Hall as to how much and what the taxpayers – aka “those who’ll foot the bill” – should be told leading up to the plebiscite in the fall.
A handful of councillors are raising the flags and asking tougher questions of the City Secretariat, but even those few folks are shown the back of the hand and told “those talks continue but the process is complex, numbers are not available, we’re just doing what we’re told.” And so the clouds continue to roll in, and you’re just supposed to expect that nothing but rainbows will follow. Seems many on the Yes side haven’t heard of the damage left behind by hailstorms and tornadoes in this neck o’ the woods.
Doubts they are aplenty, but the answers not so many. And as the clock ticks down on getting outta Dodge in construction season, it seems time to catch that last off-ramp before time – and YOUR dollars – run out.