A majority of Calgary voters are saying “no thanks” to a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, and while the vote is nonbinding, the future of the bid appears bleak.
Residents voted Tuesday on whether they wanted to pursue an Olympic bid, and 56 per cent of voters chose “no.” Unofficial results showed that out of 767,734 eligible voters, 304,774 cast ballots and 171,750 of those voted against the Olympic bid.
The vote is expected to influence the city council, which has the final say on whether to move forward.
An end of the bid by Calgary, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, would leave Stockholm and a combined bid from two Italian cities (Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo) as the only remaining contenders for the 2026 games.
The future of Stockholm’s bid is also uncertain because the local government has baulked at spending taxpayer money on the event. The host will be selected by the IOC in a vote on June 24 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Three other cities, in Switzerland, Austria and Japan, have previously withdrawn from the race while a region of Turkey was not invited to the next stage of candidacy.
The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement it was disappointed by the results.
“The opportunity to welcome the world to Canada, where people can experience the uniting power of the Games and within our nation’s culture of peace and inclusion, would have offered countless benefits to all,” the statement said.
“This would have been a unique opportunity for Canadians to be leaders in fulfilling the promise of a renewed vision for the Games.”
The results won’t be declared official until Friday and the council is expected to address the results Monday. The council has already shown scepticism, with eight of 15 members voting on Oct. 31 to scuttle the public vote. Ten votes were required for the vote not to be held.
“We really wanted this dream for Calgary to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary 2026, the company set up to pursue the bid.
“We learned so much about our community. We learned so much about each other.”
The Alberta government made its funding of a bid conditional on holding a vote 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.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi voted for continuing with a bid. Calgary 2026 was hampered by last-minute negotiations over a cost-sharing agreement between the federal, provincial and city governments.
– with AP