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Games-bid evaluation team raises eyebrows

Written by Carrie Tait
Published in the Globe and Mail

The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic torch sat in a small display case on the floor in the corner to his left. On his right, a framed Team Canada jacket from Sochi 2014 – autographed by Olympic bobsleigh gold medalists Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse – sat on an easel.

Mr. Nenshi, back from his vacation at the Rio 2016 Olympics, unveiled the committee that’s been convened to study whether Calgary should bid on the 2026 Winter Olympics.

“I am so excited about this group,” Mr. Nenshi said, emphasizing the word “so.”

“It is an extraordinary group of people, an extraordinary group of citizens representing the breadth and the diversity of our community in a really exceptional way.”

But whether the group of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, business folk and arts boosters can effectively evaluate whether Calgary should spend tens of millions of dollars just to bid on the mega-event is questionable. Experts argue that the committee, chaired by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson, has significant gaps and a shortage of sober voices at the table – flaws that could hurt a potential bid.

Seven of the committee’s 17 voting members have direct links to Olympics and Paralympics, ranging from athletes to fundraisers; two sit on a board that recommended Calgary strike this committee; another has family ties to a privately owned group that wants Calgary to chip in millions for a new stadium and fieldhouse, which would likely be a central part of any bid.


The committee has $5-million to spend to explore the possibility of a bid. It can prove valuable if it hands in a realistic accounting of the city’s infrastructure – both the quality of existing facilities and the cost of necessary upgrades and new projects, according to expert outsiders.

Neither the provincial government nor the federal government have representatives at the table.

“You need to have all orders of government all in” from the start, said Sevaun Palvetzian, the chief executive at Toronto’s CivicAction and one of the authors of a report advising that city on what it takes to host global events.

“If you don’t have every order in government somehow authentically engaged, from our research it seems very hard to expect great results from the process,” she said.

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