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Calgary Olympic bid survives vote, more hurdles remain

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Calgary’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid survived a city council vote, 9-6, to move forward on Monday, but another vote is expected in June and a public vote could be held as early as October, according to Canadian media.

Two council members reportedly changed their positions to support the vote to keep it alive.

“A lot of people have been saying, oh, it’s so expensive, it’s going to triple Calgary’s debut,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “Well, if that were the case, we wouldn’t do it. … It’s going to be frugal.”

Nenshi reportedly said the bid was “a bit in the ditch” last week.

“The question is, is it worth pulling it out of the ditch or not, and I think it is,” Nenshi said last Tuesday, according to the Canadian Press. “It’s not a good time to take the off-ramp. Give us until June to see the money, and then we can take the off-ramp if the money doesn’t work.

“I think it would be a real shame for council to not to try to pull this thing out of the ditch between now and June.”

Council members voted 9-1 last Tuesday to hold Monday’s vote.

Calgary is one of seven sites pursuing 2026 Olympic bids through a dialogue phase with the IOC. The others: Graz, Austria; Milan/Torino/Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; Sapporo, Japan; Stockholm, Sweden; Sion, Switzerland and Erzurum, Turkey.

The IOC will then choose candidate cities from that list in October to run through the September 2019 members vote on the 2026 Olympic host city.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games that included the first Jamaican bobsled team and the Battle of the Brians and the Battle of the Carmens in figure skating.

If the Calgary bid happens, it could see Nordic combined and ski jumping at the Vancouver 2010 venue in Whistler, B.C., more than 500 miles west of Calgary.

If Calgary gets the 2026 Winter Games, it could hurt a potential 2030 U.S. bid from Denver, Reno-Tahoe or Salt Lake City since the IOC has never awarded back-to-back Summer or Winter Games to North America (though a Summer Games in North America has been followed by a Winter Games in North America in 1976/1980 and 1984/1988.)

Canada has not bid for an Olympics since hosting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Toronto dropped a 2024 Summer Olympic bid. Quebec City showed 2026 bid interest last year before dropping out as well.

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MORE: A look at the 7 potential 2026 Olympic bids

Calgary 2026 Olympic bid faces crucial vote

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The future of Calgary’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid will be determined by a city council vote early next week.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said the bid was “a bit in the ditch” on Tuesday, according to Canadian media.

“The question is, is it worth pulling it out of the ditch or not, and I think it is,” Nenshi said, according to the Canadian Press. “It’s not a good time to take the off-ramp. Give us until June to see the money, and then we can take the off-ramp if the money doesn’t work.

“I think it would be a real shame for council to not to try to pull this thing out of the ditch between now and June.”

The city council voted 8-6 on March 21 to fund bid exploration ahead of the International Olympic Committee’s end-of-March deadline for cities to declare interest in bidding.

Council members voted 9-1 on Tuesday to hold a vote early next week, according to reports.

“I get the impression that people are changing their minds, members on council are changing their minds, and I’m not sure there is majority support to go forward,” said council member Druh Farrell, who put forward the motion for next week’s vote, according to the Calgary Herald.

“Unless there’s a lot of lobbying and arm-twisting and leg-twisting that goes on in the next four or five days, I think this [Olympic bid] is dead,” council member Diane Colley-Urquhart said, according to the newspaper.

Calgary is one of seven sites pursuing 2026 Olympic bids through a dialogue phase with the IOC. The others: Graz, Austria; Milan/Torino/Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; Sapporo, Japan; Stockholm, Sweden; Sion, Switzerland and Erzurum, Turkey.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games that included the first Jamaican bobsled team and the Battle of the Brians and the Battle of the Carmens in figure skating.

If the Calgary bid happens, it could see Nordic combined and ski jumping at the Vancouver 2010 venue in Whistler, B.C., more than 500 miles west of Calgary.

If Calgary gets the 2026 Winter Games, it could hurt a potential 2030 U.S. bid from Denver, Reno-Tahoe or Salt Lake City since the IOC has never awarded back-to-back Summer or Winter Games to North America (though a Summer Games in North America has been followed by a Winter Games in North America in 1976/1980 and 1984/1988.)

Canada has not bid for an Olympics since hosting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Toronto dropped a 2024 Summer Olympic bid. Quebec City showed 2026 bid interest last year before dropping out as well.

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MORE: A look at the 7 potential 2026 Olympic bids

Seven countries interested in hosting 2026 Winter Olympics

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Seven countries among three continents submitted interest in bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics before the International Olympic Committee’s deadline.

The current dialogue phase runs to October, when the IOC will choose which cities to invite to its candidate phase running up to a September 2019 IOC members vote for the host.

Bids could hinge on public votes, which led to the demise of recent Summer and Winter Games bids.

The seven potential bids:

Austria (Graz)
Austria ranks fourth in Winter Olympic medals behind Norway, the U.S. and Germany and hosted in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976. Graz is the nation’s second-largest city after Vienna. It shares a province with Schladming, host of the 1982 and 2013 World Alpine Skiing Championships. A potential venue plan would include figure skating, short track speed skating, hockey and curling in Graz, Alpine skiing in Schladming, more hockey games in Vienna, Linz or Klagenfurt and speed skating and sliding sports in Germany, up to 200 miles from Graz. A planned Innsbruck bid for the 2026 Winter Games was dropped in October after defeat in a public vote. Austria lost in Olympic bidding for 2002 (Graz), 2006 (Klagenfurt), 2010 (Salzburg) and 2014 (Salzburg).

Canada (Calgary)
Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games that included the first Jamaican bobsled team and the Battle of the Brians and the Battle of the Carmens in figure skating. If this bid happens, it could see Nordic combined and ski jumping at the Vancouver 2010 venue in Whistler, B.C., more than 500 miles west of Calgary. If Calgary gets the 2026 Winter Games, it could hurt a potential 2030 U.S. bid from Denver, Reno-Tahoe or Salt Lake City since the IOC has never awarded back-to-back Summer or Winter Games to North America (though a Summer Games in North America has been followed by a Winter Games in North America in 1976/1980 and 1984/1988.) Calgary’s mayor said in PyeongChang that a “real decision” on being “serious” about bidding must be made by the summer, according to Sportsnet. Toronto dropped a 2024 Summer Olympic bid. Quebec City showed 2026 bid interest last year before dropping out as well.

Italy (Cortina d’Ampezzo/Milan/Torino)
Italy’s initial declaration last week mentioned only Milan and Torino, but the Cortina mayor later wanted in, too. The three sites are separated by about 300 miles across northern Italy. Torino hosted the Winter Games in 2006, with one Winter Olympics in Europe since then (Sochi 2014, though Russia is transcontinental). Cortina was Italy’s other Winter Games host in 1956. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said it will present a feasibility study on its bid once the new Italian government forms for “a comprehensive evaluation of the entire project.” Italy’s general election on March 4 resulted in no clear majority.

Japan (Sapporo)
Sapporo, which has been talked about as a potential 2026 bid city for more than three years, hosted the first Winter Games in Asia in 1972 as well as the Asian Winter Games in 1986, 1990 and 2017. Sapporo is hoping for a third straight Winter Olympics in East Asia after PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022. Tokyo is also hosting the 2020 Summer Games. IOC president Thomas Bach has said he hopes the Winter Olympics can return to a more traditional location in 2026, which USOC chairman Larry Probst called “code for Europe or North America.” Sapporo’s sliding sports track from 1972 is gone. Bobsled, luge and skeleton could be held at the 1998 Olympic venue in Nagano, which is 600 miles south of Sapporo and on a different island.

Sweden (Stockholm)
The Swedish capital dropped a bid for the 2022 Olympics in 2015 due to lack of political and financial support. The bid was revived for 2026, declared dead by Swedish politicians last April, but kept alive by the Swedish Olympic Committee. As with the 2022 bid, Alpine events are slated for Åre, about 350 miles north. Sliding events could be in Latvia, 300 miles across the Baltic Sea. Sweden hosted one Olympics — the Summer Games in Stockholm in 1912 — plus equestrian events in Stockholm during the 1956 Melbourne Games. It also failed in bids for six straight Winter Olympics — 1984 (Göteborg), 1988 (Falun), 1992 (Falun), 1994 (Östersund), 1998 (Östersund) and 2002 (Östersund).

Switzerland (Sion)
The first city to officially declare 2026 candidacy nearly a year ago. Sion, with a population listed around 30,000, could be the smallest Olympic host city since Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. The initial Sion framework included events in Bern, Lausanne and St. Moritz. Switzerland hosted the Olympics twice, both Winter Games in St. Moritz (1928 and 1948). Sion previously was a finalist to host the 1976, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, finishing runner-up in voting every time. A possible bid from St. Moritz and Davos was rejected by voters in February 2017. A Sion bid could hinge on a public vote set for June 10.

Turkey (Erzurum)
Turkey has never bid for a Winter Olympics nor hosted a Summer or Winter Games. Istanbul bid for the Summer Olympics in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2020, coming as close as runner-up to Tokyo for 2020. If successful, Turkey could become the third nation to host a Winter Olympics with no prior Winter Olympic medals. The others were Yugoslavia in 1984 and France at the first Winter Games in 1924. Turkey’s best-ever Winter Olympic finish was 15th (out of 15 teams) in the 1998 men’s cross-country skiing relay, according to the OlyMADMen. Erzurum is an Eastern provincial capital with about 400,000 people.

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