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PRINT EDITION
Mayor says Calgary shouldn't contribute more than Alberta to Olympic costs
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By DONNA SPENCER
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018 – Page B15

CALGARY -- The mayor of Calgary says the city shouldn't contribute more than the province of Alberta to stage the 2026 Winter Games.

Alberta has committed $700million if Calgary bids for and wins the right to bring the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Canada.

The federal government won't provide more than $1.5-billion under a policy for hosting international sport events, and has yet to state how much money it would put in.

"I think if you're looking at the city putting in $800-million, more than the province, that is not a good deal," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Monday.

By that rationale, the numbers don't quite add up to the city and provincial and federal governments producing the $3-billion in public investment the bid corporation Calgary 2026 asked for in its $5.2-billion total price tag.

There is a large moving part in Calgary's sports landscape, however, that could inject wiggle room into the proposed 2026 budget.

Nenshi has questioned whether there is a need for a $100-million mid-sized arena in Calgary 2026's draft plan if terms for a new NHL arena - which isn't part of the Olympic plan - are agreed upon.

Both Nenshi and Calgary 2026 board chair Scott Hutcheson say work continues on finding cost savings.

"Every good idea from here to 2026 would be explored," Hutcheson said.

"As with every other Olympics between the time of a bid and the time of putting on a Games, you want to make sure you've looked at every idea, challenged it, challenged the costs and try to do a better job over seven years, between a bid awarded and a bid execution."

Calgary City Council could pull the plug on a bid at any time, but is unlikely to do so before a Nov. 13 plebiscite asking Calgarians if they want to bring the Winter Games to the city or not.

The International Olympic Committee will accept 2026 bids on Jan. 11. The election of the host city is in June.

When arena talks broke down between the city and the NHL's Calgary Flames last year, Nenshi went public with the city's proposal, which included a taxpayer contribution of $185-million to a $555-million arena.

City council voted last week to try to re-engage the Flames on arena talks.

How much money the federal government would contribute to Calgary playing host to the Games is expected to be announced within the week, Nenshi told council on Monday.

"I made it clear to the federal government we have a plebiscite on Nov. 13th and people need the time to look at the numbers before they make their vote, as do I by the way," the mayor said.

In a letter to Nenshi and federal Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said $700-million is the absolute limit and the province "will not be providing any form of guarantee for additional costs arising from any source."

"The province's number was well within the range that we had discussed," the mayor said.

The federal government's policy for hosting international sports events allows for funding up to 50 per cent of public-sector investment - $1.5-billion in this case - and states "at no time will the Government of Canada undertake to guarantee deficit funding of a bidding or hosting project."

Nenshi doesn't want the city in a position of Games guarantor, but points to the $1.1-billion in contingency funds in Calgary 2026's draft plan as insurance against deficits.


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