Alberta pledges maximum of $700M for possible 2026 Calgary Olympics

The Alberta government pledged $ 700 million on Friday for a potential Calgary Winter Olympics, with conditions. 

In a letter from Finance Minister Joe Ceci to Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science and sport, the province said the money is contingent on "the majority of Calgarians supporting the bid in the November 13th plebiscite."

Another condition was increased transparency requirements.

"Transparency is an important principle for our government," reads the letter.  "As the Games will cost $ 3B of public funds, we will make a funding requirement that Calgary 2026 become subject to provincial transparency and freedom of information laws, or other equivalent rules or regulations."

$ 3B needed in public funds

Calgary 2026, the bid corporation, has predicted $ 5.23 billion would be needed to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, although critics call that cost projection optimistic. 

The organization said $ 3 billion of that would need to come from various levels of government, with the remainder paid for by Games' revenues.

It was expected the province would provide $ 1 billion for the Games, with the federal contribution expected to be $ 1.5 billion.

Speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, Ceci said his government was comfortable it could manage the $ 700 million contribution and still balance the books by 2023. 

He said he's confident the other levels of government can provide the needed funding should a bid proceed, and that no more provincial money would be forthcoming. 

City and bid corporation response

Nenshi and Coun. Evan Woolley, who chairs the Olympic assessment committee, said in a statement that they're "pleased" the province has announced its intentions.

"We have to analyze this announcement, while continuing our conversations with the Government of Canada," reads the statement. "We imagine there will be more to say about the city and federal government contributions in the next few days."

The chair of Calgary 2026, Scott Hutcheson, said the organization is focused on providing information and "engaging" with Calgarians. 

"Today's announcement demonstrates solid progress and support from the Government of Alberta and we are thankful for that," he said in a statement. 

"We are also pleased our other government partners — the City of Calgary and the federal government — continue to move forward with their discussions and negotiations. We will continue to offer our support, where needed."

What the money buys

The plan calls for $ 400 million on two new venues — a fieldhouse and mid-sized arena — and $ 500 million to refurbish old facilities that would be included in a bid, many of which date back to when Calgary held the 1988 Winter Games.

Some events would be held west of Calgary in the Rocky Mountain town of Canmore, at the Nakiska ski resort in Kananaskis Country and as far away as Whistler, B.C.

The plan includes $ 583 million for temporary accommodations for athletes, media and officials that would be converted into mostly affordable housing in the long term.

Documents obtained by CBC News also show not all cost considerations are included in Calgary 2026's estimates, including infrastructure costs to be borne by the city.

Province won't provide more

The province had promised to make its funding intentions clear at least 30 days prior to Calgary's non-binding plebiscite on whether or not to host the Games and fulfilled that promise on Friday. That plebiscite is scheduled for Nov. 13. 

But it made it clear it's not interested in providing any more than it promised. 

"As you know, the Government of Alberta will not be able to provide any additional funds that may be required, including those to cover revenue shortfalls or cost overruns," reads the letter from Ceci. "Moreover, we will not be providing any form of guarantee for additional costs arising from any source."

The federal government has still not announced how much it would contribute if Calgary decides to pursue a bid and wins. 

Other bids

There are three bids still in the running for the 2026 Games: Calgary, Stockholm and a combined Italian bid including Milan and Cortina.

Reports on Friday, however, suggest Stockholm's bid is at risk of falling apart. 

The deadline to submit a 2026 bid to the International Olympic Committee is Jan. 11. The successful host city is to be announced in June.

The city of Calgary has an online hub of 2026 information and Calgary 2026 has also posted bid information.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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