(ATR) Organizers of the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic bid left downtrodden as the city voted against pursuing the Games, a decision the IOC described "as no surprise".
Calgary voted 56 percent against bidding for the 2026 Olympics, the seventh straight referendum defeat for an Olympic project since Oslo voted to pursue the Games in 2013. Calgary joins Innsbruck and Graz, Austria, Sion, Switzerland, and Sapporo, Japan as cities that withdrew from the 2026 bid race. Erzurum, Turkey had submitted a bid, but was not shortlisted by the IOC.
That leaves Milan/Cortina and Stockholm as the final two candidates vying to host the Olympics. It is the third straight bidding cycle where only two cities remained for the IOC to choose from.
"I believed in what the Olympic Games could do for our community and for our province and for our country," Scott Hutcheson, Calgary 2026 BidCo chair, said to a downbeat "Yes" side results party, according to local media.
"I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I certainly respect the democratic process."
Almost 305,000 people voted in the Calgary 2026 Olympics plebiscite, surpassing 40 percent turnout. Just over 380,000 people voted in the 2017 municipal elections.
By contrast, over 60 percent of Vancouver residents voted in favor of a 2010 Olympic bid in 2003.
"The IOC takes note of the decision regarding the candidature of Calgary for the Olympic Winter Games 2026. It comes as no surprise following the political discussions and uncertainties right up until the last few days," an IOC spokesperson said.
"We understand the disappointment of all those involved in the candidature, especially the Calgary 2026 Committee, the Canadian athletes, who have so enthusiastically been a driving force behind this project, as well as the representatives of the business community, the Paralympic Movement and the members of the First Nations who fought so hard for the Olympic project. It is disappointing that the arguments about the sporting, social and long-term benefits of hosting the Olympic Games did not sway the vote."
Individual IOC members contacted by Around the Rings declined to comment until the Calgary City Council meets on Monday to vote to officially shut down the bid effort.
After the city of Calgary accepted provincial funding to explore a bid in exchange for a future plebiscite, both the "yes" and "no" camps for the Olympics quickly took shape.
The "YesCalgary 2026" grassroots effort, supported by the BidCo, focused on future investment an Olympic Games would bring. Nostalgia for the 1988 Winter Olympics played heavily in messaging as well.
My interview with Linda Masleshko — Frank King’s daughter.
Who tells me in the middle of the interview she could cry today. Was up at 4am.
Here it is. #Calgary2026 @CBCOlympics pic.twitter.com/i1cGd2QrVk— Devin Heroux (@Devin_Heroux) November 13, 2018
Opponents of a bid coalesced around the messaging that an Olympic project could bring risk to local taxpayers in ballooning costs for construction projects and any cost overruns associated with the organizing committee.
Congratulations Calgary! We did it! A gold medal win for Taxpayers as Calgary votes NO to hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics!#yyc #yycvote #yycvotes2018 #CALGARY2026 pic.twitter.com/nMZum3qefA— Save Calgary From The Olympics (@SaveCalgary) November 14, 2018
The city of Calgary, the BidCo, the provincial government, and the national government struggled to agree on a funding breakdown for the project. A last-minute deal saved the bid from being scuttled by the slimmest of margins. Eight city councillors voted against the bid, but 10 votes were needed to stop the plebiscite.
"YesCalgary 2026" said that early voting doomed the bid, with many citizens voting while the funding deal was being negotiated.
"Today, people understood how good a deal it was for Calgary and last week they didn’t," Stephen Carter, a political consultant in Calgary who worked with the YesCalgary 2026 grassroots efforts, said to the Calgary Herald. "Last week, the anger and the fear took advantage of this. Unfortunately there was a lot of people who wanted to stoke that anger and fear for their own purposes."
The Canadian Olympic Committee had lobbied on behalf of the bid in Calgary the day of the vote. Many Canadian Olympians had urged supporters to come out for the final city council meetings and to vote the day of the plebiscite.
Respect and thank every single person who voted today. Democracy reigns. A perfect storm of negativity and confusion. I believe Calgary loses in the long run but...it is what it is! #onwards #yycvote #calgary2026 #ioc https://t.co/wYZfb05sj8— Hayley Wickenheiser (@wick_22) November 14, 2018
In a statement the COC expressed its disappointment in the process, while President Tricia Smith thanked "the people of Calgary and Canmore who stood behind this effort" to make the bid a reality. Smith was not available to speak with the media today.
The plebiscite was non-binding, though city officials vowed to respect the will of the citizens in wake of the results. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said to reporters the "people have spoken in big numbers," and now the council will digest what the vote means.
"This is [a] very clear direction from where we go from here," Nenshi said. "What we had was passionate people talking about the future of the community and talking about what they believe in."
Nenshi said the result of the plebiscite shows "there isn’t any desire" to move on with a bid for the 2030 Olympics. That sentiment was echoed by Sean Chu, a city councillor who had opposed the bid from the start.
"The yes side had unlimited money to spend with a big star, the mayor, and business establishment, and Olympians everywhere," Chu told local media. "Look behind you. The people, with two cents, look what they put together, they did it. They’re the ones who did the whole thing."
Written by Aaron Bauer
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