5-RING CIRCUS: It’s getting louder in Calgary

The decibel level in Calgary about its potential bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games is getting higher.

In the aftermath of the Province of Alberta announcing that it would contribute not more than C$700 million, instead of the C$1 billion hoped for in the Calgary 2026 Draft Hosting Plan Concept, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said last Monday that “I think if you’re looking at the city putting in $800 million, more than the province, that is not a good deal.” (C$1 = $0.77 U.S.)

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s letter committing C$700 million in support “is the absolute limit and ‘we will not be providing any form of guarantee for additional costs arising from any source.’”

With a C$300 million shortfall, the city of Calgary’s funding responsibility would rise from C$500 million to C$800 million.

The Draft Hosting Plan Concept financing projection envisioned a C$5.23 billion project, with C$2.23 billion financed by private-sector funds (including contributions from the International Olympic Committee) and C$3.0 billion from taxpayers from local, provincial and the federal government.

A Canadian Press story on Monday noted that “The federal government’s policy for hosting international sports events allows for funding up to 50 per cent of public sector investment – $1.5 billion in this case – and states ‘at no time will the Government of Canada undertake to guarantee deficit funding of a bidding or hosting project.’” So, who’s on the hook at the end?

Moreover, the federal commitment has not yet been confirmed, although Nenshi expected it to be shared in the coming days. The vote faces a yes-or-no public referendum in Calgary on 13 November.

At the same time, the City Council is now revisiting discussions with the NHL’s Calgary Flames on a new, C$555 million arena, which could have a significant impact on a 2026 Games budget, possibly eliminating a new, mid-sized arena which is slated to cost C$100 million.

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