Calgary gets more thinking time on 2026 bid

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CALGARY – Calgary has extra time to mull a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics because the International Olympic Committee has shifted its timelines.

The IOC announced Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, that the “invitation phase” starting in September for 2026 bids will be expanded to a full year to give “cities more time and more help to develop their proposals.”

With the winning bid to be announced September, 2019, the formal bid process has been shortened to one year from two which reduces costs, the IOC said in a statement on its website.

“In a nutshell, the candidature process which worked so well in the past has become too expensive and too onerous for this new political reality,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

“We have been asking too much, too soon of the cities.”

With fewer cities interested in hosting Olympic Games, the IOC has adopted a series of reforms under the banner of Agenda 2020 to make bidding and hosting less expensive.

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee told city council last month the price tag to host the 2026 Winter Games would be about $4.6 billion.

CBEC said revenue the Games generate would cover almost half the cost, but another $2.4 billion would be needed.

CBEC and city administration are scheduled to make recommendations to council July 24 on a possible bid.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi has said it will be difficult for council to make a decision without having a 2026 host city contract from the IOC laying out principles and operational requirements.

When the 17-member CBEC was formed, they worked under an initial deadline of September, 2017, as the Canadian Olympic Committee expected to have to put forward the name of a candidate city to the IOC then.

“The IOC has made significant steps towards implementing Agenda 2020 reforms and has been a great partner in our initial explorations regarding a potential Calgary 2026 Bid,” COC chief executive officer Chris Overholt said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with the IOC and developing a new Winter Games hosting model that makes sense for our citizens to support.”

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 billion.

Calgary’s estimate is lower in part because the city can re-use venues from the 1988 Winter Games, CBEC chair Rick Hanson has said.

Sion, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria, are among Calgary’s potential rivals for a 2026 bid.

Cities won’t be asked to submit formal proposals or deliver presentations during the invitation phase, but the IOC indicated they can expect more scrutiny if they go ahead with a bid.

“Candidates can also expect closer IOC collaboration, expert advice and other support throughout the formal candidature process,” the IOC’s statement said.

The 2018 Winter Games are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.