Calgary mayor in the dark on possible future Olympic bid

With Alberta’s Conservative Party preparing for the departure of Premier Jason Kenney, CityNews’ Bailey Nitti asks Albertan’s what Kenney’s legacy means to them.

It appears Calgary’s mayor is unaware of the province’s desire to potentially host another Olympics in the city.

Alberta Culture Minister Ron Orr mentioned Tuesday the possibility of bidding for the games again, prompting confusion from Jyoti Gondek.

Orr made the comments at a funding announcement at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. The province said it’s giving the non-profit more than $17 million to revitalize its day lodge and “extend the overall lifecycle of the building.”

“It also means that millions more will be able to access this legacy space over the course of the next three decades,” Orr said. “And quite frankly, also increase the likelihood of hosting future world class events, competitions, and games in Alberta.”

When asked about the possibility of Calgary making another Olympic bid, Orr said “a small group of individuals” put together “some proposals for a future opportunity.”

Gondek appeared blindsided by the possibility of the city making a bid to host the Olympics in the future.

“I don’t know what Minister Orr is talking about, I’m looking forward to the provincial government engaging with us as the so-called site, I don’t know anything more about it,” Gondek said. “Really interested in what’s happening.”

Barry Heck, CEO of WinSport, says the millions of dollars in funding from the province “enhances our city’s ability to attract” events like the Olympics. However, WinSport is not involved in any discussions about an Olympic bid.

Orr adds the government is open to the idea of hosting the Olympics again but adds, “these things are a long way out and there’s a lot of work to be done to get there.”

He says the province has “engaged in some initial processes.”

“The city of Calgary has almost all the amenities that it would need for games at this stage, and of course this kind of redevelopment would obviously add to that,” Orr said. “At this stage, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to go into details or to talk about conversations that may be happening, but I’ll just leave it where I left it before, yes, it is a possibility.”

Gondek is reserved about the idea. When asked about council’s willingness to explore an Olympic bid, she expressed doubt about the validity of Orr’s comments.

“I don’t even know if it’s real, so I’m not going to weigh in on things that are still imaginary,” she said. “Once it becomes a real thing, then I can absolutely respond to you.”

Gondek adds she got word of Orr’s comments while she was in the middle of Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“I have been … getting pinged about ‘you’re going to have the Olympics?’ To which I said, ‘we are?’ And so, yeah, I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I know what’s happening,” she said.

The city held a plebiscite in 2018, asking Calgarians whether or not they would want the Olympics to come to Alberta. More than 300,000 people cast their ballots, with 56.4 per cent of people voting against moving forward with the bid process for the 2026 games.

Calgary was host to the multi-sport, international event once, in the winter of 1988.

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