By Kyle Shewfelt
I am for Calgary putting forward a bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I am a born and raised Calgarian. I pay taxes here. I am raising my family here. I own a business here. I volunteer here. I love our city and I want to contribute to its evolution.
I benefited greatly from the Olympic legacy of Calgary ’88. In fact, watching those Games sparked my Olympic dream.
I will never forget being a five-and-a-half-year-old boy and holding the red candle holder emblazoned with the Olympic logo, watching the speedskating athletes train at the Oval and being mesmerized by the glory of the Games.
“Maybe, one day, I can be an Olympian, too,” I thought.
Sixteen years after this childhood experience, I found myself on top of the Olympic podium in Athens, as a film strip of that little boy raced through my mind.
At this point in my life, 10 years post retirement and chasing new, non-competitive sport-related dreams, I don’t see the possibility of hosting the Olympics in Calgary in 2026 being much about the actual sporting events or the Olympics/Paralympics at all.
Sure, the six weeks the five-ring circus of events and action create many inspirational and memorable moments, but time does not freeze and these moments become history.
The big question I have is: What legacy can be created for our city with this opportunity?
I see it being about investment. We have an opportunity to attract billions of dollars of investment into our region that we could not get any other way. We could see 10 times the return on investment for Calgarians — why wouldn’t we say “yes, please” to this? Full hotels, full restaurants? Yes, please.
I see it being about a renewed sense of volunteerism. Did you know that volunteerism among people 45 years of age and younger in this city is the lowest it has ever been? But given a cause or a purpose, we feel empowered. Look at the floods of 2013. This is the Calgary I love and I want more of it.
I see it being about creating better facilities for our citizens to keep being active for generations to come: WinSport, a field house, Olympic Oval, Canmore Nordic Centre, and many, many, more. Watching the Olympics always inspires me to get moving as well.
I see it being about saying yes to envisioning and creating a Calgary that I want to live in for the next 30 years. Saying yes to a Calgary that my daughter (who will be 10 years old in 2026) will thrive in for her youth and her adult life.
Maybe she’ll want to raise her family here too, because of all the amazing things Calgary has to offer, because we said yes to hosting the Olympics.
I often think, where would this city be if we didn’t say yes to Calgary ’88? We’d be very different, of that I’m sure. And I can only imagine the citizens and visionaries of our city at the time felt similar concerns as some do today.
When I was in Rio working as a broadcaster, I had a disturbing feeling about the direction the Olympic Games were heading in. When I look back at Athens, even though my Olympic dream came true, I am saddened by the state of the venues today and the toll the Olympics took on the city.
Sochi was perhaps the worst display of Olympic greed and near-sightedness in action.
It is simple – we need to continue having the Olympic and Paralympic Games. What is also true is we cannot continue to build huge venues in the middle of nowhere that become wastelands. This is irresponsible and it is not the way Calgary does things.
What is in front of us in 2026 is an opportunity to do it our way – the Canadian way.
We have an opportunity to say yes to sustainability. We have an opportunity to say yes to reusing existing venues (not just in Calgary, but in Edmonton, Whistler and Canmore, etc).
We have an opportunity to say yes to setting an example and seizing the expectation of what the Olympics can do for a city.
We have an opportunity to enforce strict rules around fair play and clean sport. We have an opportunity to set the path for our next generation of community leaders.
I urge city council to keep this vote in the hands of Calgarians. We are the ones who will be impacted by the decision, and we are the ones who have the right to have our say. Our voice was promised by the plebiscite.
Please give this process oxygen, and don’t extinguish the potential of the opportunity before us.
As a father, and a small business owner in the city, I want to play a role in making Calgary even more amazing. I hope you will too.
Kyle Shewfelt is a three-time Olympian, Olympic gold medalist and lifelong Calgarian.
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