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Calgary votes ‘No’ on Olympics: now what?

The never-ending saga of the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic bid came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night. Voters cast their ballots in a non-binding plebiscite and voted to halt the bidding process.

It’s worth noting that the “No” tabulation is the third-most votes for any candidate/stance in a municipal election over the past decade, trailing behind mayor Naheed Nenshi’s re-elections in 2013 and 2017. It wasn’t a win by a nose, it was fairly definitive.

The plebiscite was held as a condition of the provincial government’s $700 million commitment to the potential bid. (The federal government also tied their contribution to a “Yes” vote.) Now that the results are in, Calgary City Council will vote on the future of the bid. Unless they have a ton of cash burning a hole in their pocket – and they don’t – they’ll vote to formally exit the bidding process. Considering a majority of council voted to end the bidding process a few weeks ago (they needed a super-majority to end it) – before the provincial money disappeared due to the voting results – it’s a virtual certainty that the bid will die in short order. The vote on the bid’s future is expected to hit Monday’s council meeting.

Does this impact the path forward in the arena negotiations? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the Olympics could’ve provided some funding that would’ve helped offset the City’s financial investment in the arena and the proposed cultural and entertainment district in East Victoria Park. No, in the sense that the City and the Flames both have needs in the negotiations that are completely independent of the Olympic bidding process and they don’t necessarily need a cash injection of outside money to get a deal done.

That said, several individuals on Calgary City Council have spent a lot of time, energy and political clout on a bid that died on the vine. For a group that just took a big, public L, getting shovels in the ground on a new arena in the near future – with a deal that works for the Calgary taxpayer – could be seen as a very big political win.



  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Yay! Shortsighted people afraid of losing their penaions but missing a huge opportunity won out! NOT why people migrated here so much for 25 years!

  • The GRAND BALLSUCKER

    I am pretty high right now and I still dont understand what the heck you are ranting about RealMcBadSpeller. What kinda glue you been sniffing?

  • Justthateasy

    We go nowhere Ryan because trust in this BS mayor has been lost long ago. You very nice case was made for voting yes on the fan this morning. Much of what city hall does is in secret and they do what they think is best for us. They were told to release the budget before the vote not one day after. Why was the city blanketed with a thousand or more signs telling you how to vote? That’s an example of arrogant ‘we know what’s good for you just shut up and vote’. It’s too bad they blew it. But on the other end if they can’t even run a small campaign of information delivery, how can they run a huge event like this? It was just a small test and they failed.

    • Goodvirtue

      It’s not just the Mayor (he has his warts). City Hall has reeked of this stuff for a long time. Just mixed feelings about this whole debacle. (Voted no with a heavy heart)

  • Albertabeef

    Americans boycotted the Moscow games, Moscow boycotted the LA games. Calgary’s 88 Olympics were so friendly and happy that the ripple effect brought the Berlin wall down the following year, Those were good times. It was a beacon of hope to the world. Not sure modern Calgary could duplicate that magical feeling again. Attitude has changed a lot over the last 30 years in Cowtown.

  • oddclod

    Hi I’m from Calgary, I’m a pleb. I don’t want the games because we plebs don’t know how to have fun. We like to complain about alot of things. There’s not much to do here except drink and complain about how stupid some people are. We’re interesting tho. Hello world from Calgary. Take your games and shove it.

  • The GREAT WW

    Probably for the best.

    Calgary is run by morons.
    The bus route…..
    New airport…..
    Ring road…..
    Double diverging diamond…….
    Art work…….
    Library…….
    Bike lanes…..

    Just to name a few recent disasters; no reason to think they would not have messed up this too….

    WW

      • Justthateasy

        Now LRT going to Foothills Industrial. Anybody going to work that has to walk more than three blocks is going to take the car because there’s tons of parking out there. I heard this was an aldermanic trade-off for the much-needed North Central route that will end at 16th Avenue. Now that’s a joke!

      • Kevin R

        Well I think when you compound it with the $100 million they are pi$$ing away on that 14th street Rapid Bus Transit instead of improving parking & feeders to our world class LRT that goes to down town & decide to do this before the ring road is completed. Well…. this Mayor shelf life had expired before he was re-elected. I voted no because this Olympics meant something to that weasel Nenshi & after he came out & said he didnt see the value of having a professional hockey team in this City but he he is quite happy to spend way more on a 3 week sports party that would shine the world spot light on him…..well….he can go pound. I may have voted for wrong but my perception is my reality & I have zero trust in this mayor! Sorry.

        • Captain Ron

          No apology necessary!
          We need to get rid of this Mayor, this Premier, and this Prime Minister ASAP before we all go broke!!!
          They treat small business owners like they are their personal bank accounts except they never make deposits, only withdrawals!
          Our property taxes on a 2200 square foot quasi retail space in the S.E. are going up by over 5 grand next year! Taxes alone will be $7.99 per square foot!
          We are getting absolutely fleeced by government at every level!
          Sorry for the overuse of !!!!!! but eff me they can all kiss my arse.

  • Burnward

    Conflicted.

    Money is lots. But government money isn’t real money. They waste millions every day.

    Is the burden too much to bear? Did they ever break it down for me to understand what my burden would be?

    No.

    Overall I believe the world needs some Canada in their life because this country is actually trying to be good. (And don’t start with harper/conservative/scheer/trudeau/liberal crap. This country is minute shades of center)

    Overall they couldn’t sell it to mention despite my love for the city, province and country because they failed to get their numbers in line.

    Would I personally pay 20 extra dollars for a decade to ensure that the city got these Olympics? In a heartbeat.

    But all we ever got is scary numbers with no real breakdown on what they actually mean.

    Embarrassing from the local bid committee and they should be ashamed.

  • I agree 100% with the final paragraph. I think since we heard mayor Nenshi argue City Hall has the capacity to spend $370 million cash on an Olympic Games we’ll hear Ken King and the Flames ownership group say it has the capacity to put up less than half that much (around $150 million) towards a new NHL arena. The debate could then turn on whether City Hall becomes a part-owner of the arena with the deal structured as a public-private partnership or if it’s structured as a loan to be paid back to City Hall over 15 or 20 years.

  • redwhiteblack

    If one of Keystone XL or Trans Mountain was piping oil by now (or the near future) this would not be a debate. Pipeline fan or not the economy is in the toilet as a result of very limited capacity to ship Alberta’s most valuable resource. Pipeline = Olympics, Arena, Fieldhouse and more.

  • The juice

    People who compare 26 to 88 are so short sighted. The world is different. Look at how much is spent on security now! Your city is already terrible with planning/budgets, and no games in resent history came on budget.
    Let’s cheer on your athletes but not at home.

  • oddclod

    My prime minister shut down the Alberta economy for the sake of the environment even though Canada only produces 1% of global carbon. I don’t want the Olympics because I’m sick of getting screwed and this is my only way of speaking out even though I’d love the Olympics but I don’t want to look stupid, but I think politicians are stupid even though I vote for a politician everytime there is an opportunity to do so. I love my city and the Olympics but I can’t have both because I am a tax payer 80% of my input goes to income tax, excise taxes, import tax, carbon tax, tarriff taxes, hidden taxes, I pay more for clothes and groceries than Americans. Hello world, I AM C A L G A R I A N I’m going back to work.

    • theartfuldodger

      I think most people were interested and excited about the Olympics, me included but we all just dont trust the IOC nor our Municipal, Provincial or Federal governments to manage the project responsibly

  • MDG1600

    The real crooks in this story are the IOC. Citizens of the world are waking up to their BS and now the IOC are having trouble finding a democracy that will even hold the games. I guess it is only the dictators in China and Russia who don’t mind lining the IOC’s pockets so their regimes can look legitimate.

    • Derzie

      Every major business and government has crooked elements. If if look deep, it’s all organized crime. The choice we have is to play the game or not. If you don’t play, none of the rewards come. Their pockets will be lined no matter what. That’s how the economy works at the highest levels. Whenever we talk about funding anything, a portion goes to feed corruption. Some projects it is more prevalent but when millions or billions are involved, someone greasy is gettin paid. Book it.

  • Cheeky

    It will be interesting to see what happens if Stockholm and Italy back out too. Perhaps the IOC needs this scare to realize that if you want the Olympics, then the IOC needs to fully fund it. If they have changed the ski jump heights, then they should pay for a new one, etc. (Instead of that one event being held in Vancouver). This city’s croonies that run it can hopefully now realize that the citizens have spoken and are sick and tired of pet projects. Perhaps if transit and roads were included (and arena) in the bid process you would have seen a different result, can’t always relive the past folks….

  • canadian1967

    I just had an idiot I work with telling me he voted no because half of the events were going to take place in BC (Whistler etc) and we were all going to be in debt because it was going to cost us $5B.

    This is the problem with a Democracy. In general the “Majority” are either ill-informed or uneducated.

    • canadian1967

      Then he starts talking about the last few Olympics and cost overruns and White Elephants. My response was “oh, you mean the Olympics run by Oligarchs and Dictators in Russia, Morons in Brazil and Asian Countries trying to put on a show to prove how awesome they are?”
      Nobody is complaining in Vancouver, or London.

    • Flames fan since 83

      Your work associate is a reflection of a very large portion of our population. Including Rett Warner on the Fan.
      Rett was whining that they didn’t give us information until just before the vote.
      Hello…. the info was there. But you had to look for it unfortunately. I did, and it was a no brainer. This would have been a good deal if we voted yes.

      Rett and your buddy at work are too lazy to research the facts, and only listen to sound bites put out by overly biased parties.
      Even though I hate the closed door stuff sometimes, but the problem with opening the doors to transparency is you allow morons like your work buddy to have a say.
      Anyway, just my rant.
      Go Flames Go.

  • buts

    Our city has been taken over by scared, negative, easily offended cry babies. You can’t see that the fed money was marked for sports and will probably go to Quebec, that Rachel after paying for Edmonton’s arena with our money would have layed out the red carpet if the bid was in Edmonton. Do the math…..350 million from the city with a max of 25 possibly zero in property tax out, 4 billion plus coming back. We did it before and made a profit……85% of the frickin facilities are built. What happened to entrepreneurship and it’s not like we don’t need an infusion of positivity and money because there’s no pipelines being built soon. Those who voted no are chicken, negative and scared.

    • deadpoetess

      Sorry, but the arena got no provincial money. They got no federal money either. The northern municipalities gave 25 million. The rest came from the city and Katz. So sick of hearing how we got provincial and federal funds for our arena. Because of the extra tax from all the high rises going up because of the arena, the city’s money is scheduled to be paid back early.

  • TheWheeze

    I seem to clearly recall Nenshi saying that there was no Olympic money for a new arena for the Flames. In other words, getting the Olympics meant nothing to this project.

  • Ramskull

    The only thing the Olympics would bring the people of Calgary is a garbage bag in one hand and a bill in the other while the corrupt IOC and their corporate sponsors make out like bandits,

  • Derzie

    Hey, Calgary is a conservative town. Being fortunate enough to be built on top of dead dinosaurs and jungles has created a superiority complex. Oil, being in demand for decades, is the lifeblood of the city. People in that world for a long time get a sense of entitlement not seen in ‘normal’ Canadian cities. “I deserve that luxury sports car”. “I deserve to be paid tripe what normal people get paid for manual labour”. “taxes are stupid. I’m not paying those”.
    If this sounds familiar, you’re probably the demographic that decided to say ‘no’ last night. Trouble is, oil is not going stay in demand. The world is turning its focus to climate change and alternative fuels/energy. Being conservative and saying ‘no’ to things that would be a positive impact to the well being of a city, is easy as pie and the wrong thing.This city needs a path/roadmap that has it prosper post-oil. Last night put a big dagger in something that would invest in the future.
    Perspective. Those of you who have worked/lived in places less fortunate will see the short-sightedness of ‘no’. Saving a few tax dollars so that you can by an extra tank of gas for your monster truck is not a good excuse. Calling it a ‘fiscally irresponsible plan’ may be true but if you think govenments of any kind spend on anything to ‘fiscally responsible’ standards, you haven’t been paying attention.
    When our houses all become worth a fraction of their current value and Calgary starts its descent into a ghost town, our kids will have this vote as a case study into the thinking of the majority in 2018. Most of the No voters will have died from old age but the younger ‘conservatives’ of 2018 will take their place as naysayers in chief, just not in Calgary.

    • Flames fan since 83

      I consider myself “centre right” (fiscally conservative).
      I voted yes because I wanted to prosper along with the city.
      My $350 in budgeted additional tax ($50 per year for the next 7 years) is well worth the money I planned on making when I rent my house out for two weeks for 10 grand a week! ($20 thousand dollars for a $350 investment)
      I was also going to see a small part of the benefit when the 600 million construction of the media village, the $300 million for the field house, $100 million for new rink, and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to upgrade the existing facilities. (over a billion dollars of construction work directly from this bid). No doubt at least a bump to get our economy going.
      Last, the IOC is in trouble. And they need to re think how they do things. They need to find permanent places to host games. 2 winter and 2 summer locations. Calgary’s bid is the first bid where they were re cycling 11 of 14 venues. Not building new ovals, nordic centers etc. This would have been an example of how it should be done. (we need to diversify our economy from Oil dependency, maybe hosting every 8 years helps?)
      Not all know, but we had a billion dollar over run fund. (we were told the cost to run the games was 5.2 billion, but actually the budget was $4.2 with a billion contingency).
      So if we pulled this off and we ran on budget, there would have been $800 million left over (cause $200 million was a insurance policy). Can you say NEW ARENA…(a new arena would never happen from this money, but just thought I would throw that out there.)

      • RU63

        So many people I know are now regretting their No vote. They were reading their fake news from facebook, and now realize we missed out on a huge opportunity to have the IOC, Feds, and Province pay (most of the bill) for things we really need.

      • Flames fan since 83

        Duhhh… are you suggesting our mayor is Not left leaning???
        Listen, left leaning voters did support the Olympics. Mid and far Left did not. The ideals of sport, art, education are center pieces of Left ideals. And I believe sport is a great part of our community. I went to several information sessions on the olympics. The yes sessions were very much a left leaning group.
        How many sessions did you go to, to become so “informed”?
        Ya, I thought so.