Mayor Naheed Nenshi slammed a decision by city councillors to hold a vote that could end Calgary’s pursuit of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
“I think this is remarkably shortsighted, particularly when we’re looking at an investment that would be historic into the economy of Calgary at a time when we desperately need investment,” Nenshi said.
“If this fails, I think that many articles in many books will be written about what Calgary did wrong here.”
Due to a scheduling conflict, Nenshi was absent Tuesday when councillors decided to hold a vote on proceeding any further with a bid amid concerns about continued missteps and a lack of transparency on the Olympic file.
But the mayor took the opportunity at a provincial news conference Thursday to unleash a torrent of criticism regarding the vote scheduled for the next council meeting on Monday.
“Let’s be blunt. It was purely political,” he said. “A couple members of council thought that at this moment enough of their colleagues are irritated that they might be able to get the eight (votes).”
Nenshi said it’s premature to end the process before Calgarians weigh in and a full financial picture emerges of potential funding from other levels of government, as well as from the International Olympic Committee and the private sector.
“If I were a citizen watching all this, I would say, ‘Guys, yeah, you need to slow down’ — but you need to slow down on the opposition (too), so we really understand whether the Olympics are right for Calgary or not and what kind funding is coming in.
“To strangle the opportunity to get that kind of funding and investment before we even know doesn’t seem to be a particularly prudent thing to do.”
Monday’s drop-dead Olympic vote means that Calgary’s debate over a bid has suddenly ratcheted up several notches to include many more voices outside the political sphere.
Olympians, Paralympians and local athletic leaders will hold a news conference at WinSport Friday to argue in favour of Calgary continuing with the bid process.
Bobsled silver medalist Helen Upperton emailed her city councillor Thursday to urge him to vote Yes to continuing the bid exploration process.
She said Calgary’s network of athletes has mobilized since learning about the vote: “There’s a lot of us, hundreds, in fact, so when this happened on Tuesday, obviously the network started to fire on all cylinders,” Upperton said.
“I think the city of Calgary deserves more of a chance to really finish the conversation about the Olympic Games and whether or not we could and should bid.”
Upperton said Calgary’s winter sports facilities, including Canada Olympic Park, the Olympic Oval and the Canmore Nordic Centre, are hugely valuable to the broader community, not just elite athletes, and another Games could mean investments to ensure future generations get to enjoy them.
“Those venues are almost 40 years old and we need some money to invest in those facilities to keep them operational,” Upperton said. “I think that alone would be a shame: if we lost those we won’t stay a world leader in winter sport, which does a lot for our country and for our pride and for inspiring kids to be active and to pursue sport.”
The jockeying for pro-Olympic votes on council is expected to consume the next few days, though current nose counts based on public statements made by councillors and previous vote tallies suggest there could be an eight-vote majority for killing a potential bid.
And if Calgary’s bid dreams die on Monday, there will be plenty of blame to go around, Nenshi said.
“You can blame me if you want for designing a transparent, accountable system where we have tonnes of our arguments and our sausage-making out in public; you can blame the federal and provincial governments for really loving announcements and press conferences more than content, which I think screwed us up more than once; you can blame messaging for being challenging; you can blame council members for not reading their agendas.
This news has been published by title Nenshi Calls Vote To Potentially Kill Olympic Bid \'remarkably Shortsighted\'
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