Calgary 2026 Winter Olympics?

City hopes to bring back the Olympics almost 40 years later


Who can forget the illustrious 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Hosted in Calgary, Alberta, Team Canada achieved a whopping zero gold medals, two silvers and three golds. Despite Canada’s shortcomings, the game was a turning point in to injecting viability and legitimacy in the winter games.  

Now, 30 years later, Calgary is one of the three remaining bids (along with Stockholm, Sweden and the combined Italian bid of Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo) for the 2026 event. 

A part of their bid centered around the ability to have transferrable facilities that can transform into affordable housing, or other attainable market housing. They also wanted to utilize the remaining  buildings and structures from the 1988 games.  

However, Even if the Olympic facilities are transformed to a usable state at the end of the games, that will cost more money then what the budget anticipated. 

In Canada’s first foray in hosting; Montreal 1976, the burden on the city led to a thirty-year battle to repay the 1.2 billion in debts.  Since 1960, no Olympics has ever been under budget. The preliminary numbers are always lower than the final cost. 

Some may perceive that an Olympics is a boon for the tourism sector. In fact, Olympic tourists take over for the regular tourists who want to stay away from the excessive congestion. The city’s itself that host are already well known, so a large surplus in tourism revenue is hardly reached. 

Calgary’s initial budget is set at $5.2 billion. Sochi’s 2014 games cost $51 billion, the most ever in history. Perhaps a more accurate comparison for Calgary would be South Korea. The most recent winter games, held in Pyeongchang, had an overall cost of $13 billion. Curiously, the county has a population of over 40 000, so the extravagant infrastructure is rendered almost useless once the games ended. The Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, has already been torn down. Its cost? A ho-hum $109 million. 

It is clear the immense burden that cities have during the games, and the amount of money they are in debt for. So, an idea that has been floated around is of having an island that hosts the more expensive summer games every Olympics. With an island, which can operate as an international city-state, each country competing would contribute to the construction of it. The result would lead to an Olympic village that can stand for years on end. Economies being destroyed, and poor individuals being displaced (Rio: 2014) would no longer happen. 

As well, these games could be more flexible with regards to ideas being tested and the ability to pursue environmentally sound options. 

However, for at least the next ten years, the Olympics will be held in cities. The allure of bidding for them have greatly subsided. The International Olympic Committee (IOC)  jointly announced the recipients of the 2024 and 2028 games last year as they were worried no one would be in the bidding process for 2028. 

What’s encouraging is the successful bid in 2026 that wins the right to host the games will be getting 1.2 billion CAD from the IOC. This will help mitigate costs, but is nowhere near enough.  

November 13 is the day all Calgarians vote in a plebiscite whether they want the city to host the Winter and Paralympic Games.

Premier Rachel Notley, along with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi have been arduously supporting the bid, and their political influence may cause many to vote yes. It is important for all in Calgary to be educated with regards to the bid, as it will be their taxes that would inevitably be funding this event.