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Canada  

'No' to 2026 Olympic bid

The results are in, and a majority of Calgarians are saying "no thanks" to a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The city conducted a non-binding plebiscite today to gauge public opinion on whether or not there is sufficient interest to submit a bid. Out of 767,734 eligible voters in Calgary, 56 per cent (171,750 of 304,774 total votes) said they don't want the city to throw in its hat for the games.

"We really wanted this dream for Calgary to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary 2026. "We learned so much about our community. We learned so much about each other."

The plebiscite's result is non-binding on city council, which has the final say on whether Calgary will proceed with a bid.

The results won't be declared official until Friday. Council is expected to address the results Monday.

By comparison, 387,306 voted in the 2017 civic election for a 58.1 per cent turnout.

Calgary was the host city of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The venues from those games formed the foundation of a 2026 bid, for which Calgarians were asked to state their appetite.

The plebiscite's result is non-binding on city council, which has the final say on whether Calgary will proceed with a bid.

The results won't be declared official until Friday. Council is expected to address the results Monday.

While a firm 'no' vote Tuesday was definitive in terms of what action a nervous council will take, a 'yes' vote was still subject to the decision of a group of people divided on 2026.

A bid was nearly scuttled before the plebiscite.

Ten votes out of 15 on council were required Oct. 31 for a motion to pass on abandoning the plebiscite. Eight voted in favour of that motion which would have generated a cascade of other motions shutting down the bid.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi voted for continuing with a bid, saying the proposed host draft plan and budget is a good deal for the city.

The Alberta government made its funding of a bid conditional on a plebiscite and provided $2 million to pay for it.

"We fought many, many obstacles along the way," said Scott Hutcheson, board chair of Calgary 2026. "We had three government partners that stepped up with billions of dollars to invest in this dream."

Elections Calgary told voters to not wear Olympic-themed clothing to polling stations as that would be considered campaigning. Returning officer Laura Kennedy said some people were asked to adjust their attire before voting.

The bid corporation Calgary 2026, led Moran and Hutcheson — a commercial real estate entrepreneur and former national-team skier — was mandated to "promote a responsible bid."

Calgary 2026 was hampered by the tardiness of what the cost-sharing agreement would be between the federal and provincial governments and the city.

An agreement that was supposed to be ready for public consumption mid-August wasn't clear until Oct. 30.

In the estimated $5.1 billion price tag to host the games, the public investment ask was $2.875 billion and down from an initial $3 billion.

The province committed $700 million, while the Canadian government said it would provide $1.45 billion.

The city of Calgary was asked for $390 million, and was credited with the $150 million already committed to improving an area that would be a games hub.

Games revenues — tickets, merchandising, television rights, corporate sponsorships — would cover the remaining costs.

While no order of government offered to be a guarantor against debut, Calgary 2026 built $1.1 billion in contingency funds into its budget to mitigate financial risk.

The International Olympic Committee invited Calgary, Stockholm and a joint Italian bid from Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo to candidate cities for 2026.

The IOC will accept bids in early January. The election of the host city is in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June.



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