Anyone who knows me will be shocked by the brevity of this piece. However, for me, it is pretty easy to see why the city of Calgary should move forward with the 2026 Olympic Bid. My argument is based on two facts: the precarious nature of WinSport’s finances and the need for the city to build infrastructure.
For those who don’t know, Canada Olympic Park and many of the 1986 Calgary Olympic venues are run by an agency called WinSport: a non-profit agency that runs an operating deficit every year. As CBC reported, WinSport’s “most recent shortfall came in at $3 million last year.” (Calgary 2026 Olympics legacy would build on 1988’s sports endowment, WinSport president says, Bryan Labby, CBC.ca, Posted: Nov 09, 2018 5:43 PM MT). This is part of the reason why the province has continued to contribute money and resources to the facility. This year alone the province gave $500,000 so that Winsport could make repairs to the Frank Day Lodge, upgrading snow-making equipment, and develop an outdoor activity space.
Since 1988, WinSport has covered its operating losses through an endowment fund. That endowment fund has provided more than $230 million CAD worth of support to athletes and facilities. At present, the current balance of the fund is approximately $125 million dollars and WinSport officials have indicated that the endowment fund is not a long-term solution for WinSport’s operations. While, Officials have already taking steps to stem the bleeding, the future of the organization is bleak. If you don’t believe me, just look at what happened to the ski jumping facilities which were used during the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. They were closed down this year.
It turns out that Ski Jumping Canada had been paying WinSport to sustain the ski jumping facilities. When Ski Jumping Canada was no longer willing to pay, WinSport closed the ski jumping facilities. If that is the case, imagine what happens when WinSport is no longer pay for the bobsled, skeleton or other facilities. Or even worse, for Calgary, what if WinSport reduces or closes its ski hills and/or ice surfaces. Given the scrabble by Calgary-area hockey leagues and figure skaters for ice surfaces in the winter already, Calgary cannot live without Winsport.
Instead of paying the full freight for WinSport, a successful Olympic bid will mean that Calgary Taxpayers would get to share the load. If we are successful and get the Olympics other governments will begin to pay for the WinSport and the upgrades Calgary badly needs. It is true that the city of Calgary would contribute $390 million. However, the city of Canmore will put in $3 million, the province of Alberta will put in $700 and the federal government will contribute $1.423 billion, plus $30 million in “leveraging initiatives.” Even the International Olympic Committee will contribute $1.2 billion in cash and services to the winning host city. Consequently, a successful Olympic bid would save Winsport and begin to repair infrastructure Calgary needs. More importantly, Calgary would not be alone.
It is possible to make the argument that the money would be better spent dealing with other issues. However, the Government of Alberta and the Federal Government have not said that they are willing to spend more than $2 billion dollars on Calgary. In fact, the two senior levels of Government have only said that they are willing to spend the $2 billion dollars if we get the Olympics. So, it is the Olympics or nothing.
Therefore, the citizens of Calgary have a choice. We know that over the next few years that public support – small or large – will be provided to various institutions, roads and necessary infrastructure upgrades. We know that a Field House, new Arena and Stadium will be built. The C-Train will be expanded and roads repairs. Between now and 2026, the city of Calgary can get the Olympics and spend $390 million on upgrading various venues and infrastructure in Calgary; or, in that same time, the city of Calgary could not have the Olympics and spend over $2 billion dollars on those same upgrades. I know what my choice is and that is why I am voting yes today.