Whistler could host events for 2026 Olympics under multicity bid
Published Monday, November 20, 2017 4:58PM PST
Last Updated Monday, November 20, 2017 7:32PM PST
Calgary is mulling a multicity bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics that could see the city share hosting duties with Edmonton and Whistler in an attempt to cut down on costs.
A report presented to Calgary city council suggests that using existing venues – including those in other provinces, like the Whistler Olympic Park – might be a cheaper alternative to building new facilities from scratch.
Even renovating existing infrastructure from Calgary’s 1988 Games could be a pricey proposition. The city’s decades-old ski jumps no longer meet Olympic specifications, according to the report, whereas Whistler’s would require relatively little refurbishing.
"As a new facility, the jumps at Whistler are estimated to cost less to upgrade," it reads.
Building a brand new ski jumping facility in Calgary could cost upward of $100 million, though the report acknowledges there would be additional expenses and challenges in hosting events roughly 900 kilometres away from the host city.
"There would be associated other incremental costs to cover transportation, accommodation and security – as well as a loss of revenue and legacy potential for Calgary and region,” the report warns.
On Monday, Calgary city council approved $1 million to keep exploring options for its potential Olympic bid, including the multicity option.
Preliminary talks have already taken place between Calgary and Whistler, but a spokesperson for the B.C. resort community told CTV News the process is still very much in the early stages.
"The Resort Municipality of Whistler is aware of this proposed approach, but would need to review any opportunity like this more closely to determine whether and how it would potentially work in our community," Michele Comeau said in an email.
Experts note there is a growing trend with cities and even countries co-hosting major sporting events, and the International Olympics Committee introduced reforms years ago that welcome such bids for the Games.
The IOC found multicity bids that rely, at least in part, on existing infrastructure are worth considering in the name of sustainability.
John Furlong, former president of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, said he believes a Games that shares hosting duties with Calgary, Edmonton and Whistler would be a "great idea."
"The more spread out you are there's more complexity sometimes, so you have to consider all of that, but in general I think it's high time countries looked at the Olympics through the lens of what can we do with what we have," Furlong said.
While Calgary might get the lion's share of attention and tourism dollars, Furlong argued there would still be a benefit to Whistler under such an agreement.
"Remember there's a multi-billion dollar marketing opportunity around the Olympics. It's again bringing the attention of the world to one of the most beautiful regions of the world and puts you smack in the middle of the action," he said.
But Moshe Lander, a Concordia University professor who has been studying sports economics for a decade, argued the costs to Whistler and B.C. would outweigh the potential benefits.
"It's a bad idea to host the Olympics in general," Lander told CTV News.
"Usually the benefits that are promised fail to materialize, or at least as much as they say they will, and the cost of the Games usually runs well over what they say. So when all is said and done, you're usually left with a big loss that has to be picked up by the taxpayer either municipally, provincially or federally."
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko