Although the 2026 Winter Games are still eight years away, the International Olympic Committee is already on the hunt for a host city and there’s talk that Calgary could be the top contender.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been touring the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea this week on a fact-finding mission to determine the city’s suitability for hosting the Games.
“The idea really here, that we’re here for, is not to answer the question: can we host the Games? We’ve done a ton of work and we’re very confident we can host an excellent Games, the question is: should we?” Nenshi told CTV News’ Peter Akman on Tuesday.
Nenshi and the rest of the delegation have been meeting with IOC organizers in Pyeongchang to see how the Olympics operate and how any lessons learned from the current Games might apply to Calgary.
It’s been 30 years since the city hosted the Winter Olympics with great success. Besides the memorable storylines, such as ski jumper Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican bobsled team, another important legacy endures in the city – its infrastructure.
Unlike Pyeongchang, which had to build arenas, event spaces and lodgings from scratch, Calgary has an advantage when it comes to venues for the Games. The famed Saddledome arena and the Olympic Oval are just two examples of facilities used in 1988 that could be recycled in 2026.
“Not everything we’ve got in Calgary is perfect for every event. We have to improvise a little bit. We have to invest in some things, but certainly we’re not talking about building a town from scratch as in Sochi,” Nenshi explained.
The hope is that the city will be able to cut down on costs by using its existing infrastructure in order to justify hosting the notoriously expensive sporting event. Despite this, the price tag for hosting the 2026 Winter Games in Calgary is estimated to be approximately $4.6 billion.
The IOC has altered its bidding and hosting procedures to make the Games more affordable and sustainable as an increasing number of cities lose interest.
“The Games have changed, the economics have changed, but certainly the Olympic movement is interested in taking costs out and making these things real,” Nenshi said.
On Friday, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced that it would not bid on the 2026 Winter Games despite apparent interest from cities such as Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno. The declaration leaves Calgary as the only remaining North American contender in the IOC’s Dialogue Stage, along with cities in Japan, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Susan Auch, an Olympic speed skater who won three medals over three Games, including a bronze medal in Calgary, told CTV News that she supports bringing the Games back to the city.
“So many sports really made their jump because of the Olympics in Calgary. I think that it’s time to do another Games,” Auch, the current head of Speed Skating Canada, said.
Nenshi, on the other hand, said the city is still weighing its options ahead of the IOC’s formal bidding process, which begins in September.
“Is it right for Calgary? Is it right for Alberta? Is it right for Canada?” he said. “That’s really what we’re here to try and figure out.”
With a report from CTV News’ Peter Akman