The International Olympic Committee, with its competitive bid process and host city contract, creates a situation that runs up the costs for the host city. Even the 1988 Olympics were 50% over-budget. 

The 2017 Bid Exploration report concluded a $4.6 Billion cost that assumed a new arena and a fieldhouse would be in place. The actual Calgary2026 plan, including venues to be used, will not be available until September 10, 2018. The cost to prepare the bid has already been increased and is now at $30 million, with the City choosing to add $5 million for additional costs to administration for consulting and staffing.

There is a long history of over-promising and under-delivering when it comes to hosting the IOC. As Canadian IOC-member, Dick Pound said, “There is no greater fiction than an Olympic bid book.”

Host Cities rarely realize any real economic benefits yet carry all financial risk. Employment gains have always been exaggerated (research says by 10 times) and gains are marginal and temporary. An economic analysis by Dr. Trevor Tombe provides important assessment of economic and financial assumptions used in the exploration process. Even tourism, which everyone assumes will increase, doesn’t see much benefit. Vancouver’s tourism levels were lower in 2011 than they were in 2009 — tourism increases were only a brief blip. 

Here’s another perspective: an August 2018 Globe and Mail article outlined a Calgary2026 venue plan that included using the ski jumping facility at Whistler, B.C. The article cited a $5 million cost to upgrade the facility plus $30 million to operate the event. The $35 million total cost does not cover an athletes’ village or media centre, or any additional travel, security, or logistics costs. Using the conservative $35 million cost quoted, that equates to $350,000 per athlete, as the IOC allows 100 ski jumpers to participate.

Every Olympic games since 1960 has had cost overruns. It doesn’t matter how well the city manages, the cost overruns stem from the competitive bid process (having to woo IOC members to ‘win’ the bid) and from everyone knowing the dates for the event, so cost management and cost negotiations are next to impossible.

We as a City and Province need to ensure our politicians are focused on the things that really matter. To focus on an event for the IOC with their arbitrary timelines means that our City and Province will not be focused on:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Public health
  • Environmental protection.

Most important, we need economic diversity and job creation: well-paying, long-term jobs that will fill our downtown office towers again. 

What will Calgary2026 cost? There is no information available on the cost. Costs are anticipated to be public on September 10 with cost sharing information to follow at a later date. Will the information be in time for Calgarians to make an informed choice in the November 13 plebiscite?