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Calgary 2026: Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the benefits of hosting the Olympic Games outweigh potential risks

On Nov. 13, Calgarians will vote in a plebiscite to determine whether the city should host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Although this has been the subject of much debate, the course should be clear: A vote of “yes” in the plebiscite is a vote for the city’s future.

The Games present an exciting opportunity for Calgary: not only will they provide a chance to build much-needed infrastructure, but will also create jobs and increase tourism.

Of course, not everyone agrees. One commonly voiced concern about Calgary hosting the 2026 Games is the cost of building the necessary facilities, such as a multi-sport fieldhouse and accommodations for athletes. There is concern that the Games will be an undue burden on taxpayers.

Despite the naysayers, Jason Ribeiro, spokesperson for Yes Calgary 2026, is confident that funding will not be as much of an issue as people fear.

“Calgarians will pay less than 10 per cent of the total value of the Olympics while getting 100 per cent of the benefits,” he said.

Calgary Olympic Plaza, a gathering place downtown for everyone that was used in the 1988 Winter Olympic’s medal ceremony. A Commemorative plaque located within the plaza.
Monday, October 22, 2018
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Rorie Stannard

In addition to taxes, the Games would be funded by the federal and provincial governments, which would allow the city to pursue building projects that would otherwise be funded entirely by taxpayers.

Furthermore, cities that host the Games often benefit from a “halo effect,” a potentially decades-long impact on tourism and other industries, that begins before the torch is lit and lasts long after the Games themselves are done.

To support their campaign, Yes Calgary 2026 is drawing on lessons learned from the success of Calgary’s 1988 Olympic Games.

“Calgary owns so much of the world’s intellectual capital related to hosting winter sporting events, training athletes, and building sports infrastructure,” said Ribeiro.

This is evidenced by the fact that, since 1988, the city has hosted nearly 200 world-class international sporting events.

A lot of importance is being placed on hosting the Games “the Calgary way,” he emphasized. This means embracing a spirit of volunteerism and giving back, something Calgarians are widely known for.

It also means putting the city’s entrepreneurial spirit to work, and building “an economic, social, and sport legacy” for present and future Calgarians.

“These are ideas and values not borne from 1988,” Ribeiro declared.

“This is not nostalgia. This is about honouring our past, while we collectively build our future.”

There are other potential benefits to hosting the Games. Ribeiro is hopeful that the 2026 Olympics could, in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, draw attention to the needs of indigenous communities.

He believes that the Games present an opportunity for Calgary to move into the future and further establish itself as a hub of innovation and creativity.

“When did we lose that optimism? When did we allow detractors to stand in the way of truly visionary leadership? When did negativity trump optimism?”

Despite peoples’ trepidation, it is important to remember that when we venture nothing, we gain nothing. Without some risk, there can be no reward.

When the rewards can be so far-reaching and long-lasting, what can be gained from sitting back and letting such an opportunity pass us by?

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