Calgary’s plebiscite on whether to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games is just days away and both sides of the controversial bid made their final campaign pushes with rallies and events across the city Saturday.
Calgarians on the no-side braved freezing temperatures and a brief blizzard to voice their opposition to the bid down at Olympic Plaza.
The rally, organized by No Calgary Olympics and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, was attended by around 200 people, including outspoken bid critics and city councillors Jeromy Farkas, Sean Chu and Joe Magliocca.
Farkas, who also hosted an Olympic town hall on Saturday afternoon, called an eleventh hour funding proposal from Ottawa and the province a “bait and switch,” negating the city’s neutral public engagement campaign, which wrapped before the details on a new potential deal was made public.
“We guaranteed Calgarians that we’d have the (bid deal) information they would need a full 30 days before the vote, and unfortunately that promise hasn’t held true,” Farkas told reporters ahead of the rally.
He said his town hall wasn’t intended to be a “yes or no” event, but rather was an opportunity to give Calgarians “the facts” around the new proposal.
“Obviously I have my own opinion, but I take very seriously the fact that the city has fallen short in terms of getting that information out there,” he said.
As the crowd chanted “vote no” and “no trust,” the councillors addressed the crowd one by one, calling on all Calgarians to shut down the Olympic process by voting against the bid on Nov. 13.
Magliocca doubled down on previous claims of the Games serving as a “legacy project” for Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, while Chu, a former police officer, railed against cuts to the proposed security budget from $610 million to $495 million.
Andrew Williams attended the No Calgary Olympics rally and said his main concerns around a potential bid are unanswered questions about cost overruns and distrust of the International Olympic Committee.
“I think the IOC is pretty corrupt, so why bring them into a city like this?” Williams said.
“I think we’ve got a world-class city, world-class people, we don’t need a 10 or two-week boondoggle just to verify our status as a world-class city. I think we’re great already.”
The Yes-side of the bid was also out in force on Saturday with pro-Olympic events showcasing the cultural side of the Olympics at Arts Commons, as well as a free family skate at the Olympic Oval alongside Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Bid supporters held a rally on Monday featuring some Olympic star power, like British ski-jumper Michael ‘Eddie the Eagle’ Edwards, Summer Olympian Donovan Bailey and 1988 Olympic mascots Hidy and Howdy.
The Olympic bid has an estimated price tag of $5.1 billion, with the province saying it would kick in $700 million towards the project and Ottawa would cover another $1.423 billion through Sport Canada.
The city was asked to contribute $390 million, including $20 million for a $200-million insurance policy against cost overruns.
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