NoCalgaryOlympics responds to reports on distraction of Olympic Bid process
City Council Reports on Calgary 2026 Bid Distraction
Calgarians now know true cost
Monday, June 17, 2019 Calgarians’ long wait is over to learn from Council what was spent in the
failed attempt to convince Calgarians to bid for the 2026 Olympic Games. Starting with a $5.0
million feasibility study in 2017, City Council invested $7 million, and thousands of man-hours
pursuing an Olympic bid. All three levels of government combined to spend $17.7 million.
Nowhere in the reports tabled with Council today is an assessment of how well the time and money
were invested, what could have been improved, lessons learned for future mega-projects or highrisk pursuits, or how benefits cited in the report will be realized. Nowhere is there a reflection on
reasons not to pursue an Olympic Bid, particularly, what was learned about the attributes of an
acceptable project partner for Calgarians. In the report, like the bid development process,
opportunity costs are left out.
Since April 2018, NoCalgaryOlympics sounded the alarm about the opportunity cost of a Bid. What
would not be accomplished in our city because of the distraction of chasing the Olympics?
Today, it seems reasonable to question whether that opportunity cost was the immediate and longer
term solution to the property tax crisis. We wonder if the small-business-owner protests in early
June would have been necessary at all, had City Council been focused on urgent City issues, rather
than distracted by wooing the IOC. Would a solution be in place today, if councillors worked
productively together in 2018 and early 2019, making better use of over 100 hours of meeting time?
It was only on the day after the plebiscite that Calgarians learned more about those opportunity
costs -- the real cost of being distracted from City issues. What many people might not know is that
City Council has lived with knowledge of the Property Tax crisis for almost 10 months. In that time,
the Priorities and Finance Committee of Council spent 49 hours and 50 minutes in meetings,
without making the Property Tax crisis a priority or working towards solutions.
Instead, from May to November 2018, an Olympic bid assessment committee of Council invested
another 44 hours and 45 minutes meeting in pursuit of an Olympic Bid. It’s unknown how many
people and hours of work by City staff and Council were displaced from City issues to, instead,
focus on research, planning and governing the Bid process.
The NoCalgaryOlympics campaign would not have been needed if proponents had honoured their
commitment to not pursue an “Olympics at any cost.”
We have many more questions:
1. Did the Olympic bid process also cost the City a solid year of effort by Calgary Economic
Development, Calgary Tourism, and the Chamber of Commerce on attracting new
businesses, attracting conferences and conventions, and helping Calgary businesses grow?
2. Without the Olympic bid process, would Council still have needed hours and meetings in
camera to fix their inability to work together, a dysfunction that continues to be prevalent?
3. Are there governance questions when councillors were on record months ago but unable to
focus Council attention on the imminent Property Tax crisis?
4. Is it a substantial breech of governance when the Olympic Bid assessment committee’s Chair
thoughtfully concludes against bidding, only to be ignored?
5. Is Council discipline and governance a concern when the Bid process was not stopped, even
after missing every single self-imposed deadline, and without basic funding prerequisites met?
Since Calgary folded the Bid process, the city of Denver passed an ordinance, by a substantial
margin, requiring their city council to obtain support via referendum before a single tax dollar can be
spent investigating being an Olympic host city. Some say this guarantees that Denver will never
host. But couldn’t Denver’s commitment also be a key driver to true IOC reform, or to ensure private
interests carry the initial risk, prior to an investment of public dollars?
NoCalgaryOlympics still holds out hope that City Council will make use of the work of the Bid
process. The research, assessment of assets, and plans to improve the City as part of Bid
preparation should stay on the agenda, if that was quality work with true merits for our city, and not
only to serve the IOC.
New York City, which pitched and failed to be a host city, has gone on to complete a number of
projects identified during Bid preparation, which is a smart way to take a big risk and then ensure
that the risk generates benefits, win or lose.
NoCalgaryOlympics’ efforts were focused on respectfully rounding out the discussion about the pros
and cons of bidding for the Olympics. We heard from Calgarians in all parts of the city that one of
the best outcomes was the conversation that the Bid inspired. There was a shift to focusing on
what’s next for Calgary. It seemed to finally put nostalgia for past accomplishments behind us so
that people could ask: what does Calgary aspire to be?
Calgary is a city we love with a history full of highlights, including the ’88 Olympics. Calgary has a
bright future that can include prosperity and vibrancy. But there is work we will all have to do
together to get through our economic challenges to thrive once again.
While Calgarians found themselves on opposite sides of the debate and plebiscite, we are confident
with the Bid process firmly behind us, we can work together as fellow citizens, community leaders,
and City Council to move Calgary forward.
For more information: Erin Waite – 403 804-6100 OR firstname.lastname@example.org
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