Calgary Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.
It’s official, with an Olympic-sized O.With Italy’s multi-city Milan-Cortina bid chosen Monday to host the 2026 Winter Games over Stockholm in a 47-34 vote by International Olympic Committee members, local Olympic watchers will have to deal with an eight-hour time difference instead of being at the centre of the world’s sporting spotlight.It was eight months ago that Calgarians voted to scuttle the city’s proposed 2026 bid, with 56.4 per cent voting against the plan in a plebiscite.Last week, the city revealed it spent $7 million on the ultimately abandoned bid, which rung up a total bill of $17.7 million with contributions from the provincial and federal governments.But how does Calgary’s spiked bid compare to the winning proposal from Milan-Cortina?Venues:Milan-Cortina’s winning plan aims to see 93 per cent of its competition venues be either existing or temporary facilities, compared to Calgary’s proposal to see 80 per cent of its venues fit into those categories. The only newly built facility envisioned in the Italian bid is an ice hockey arena, the Pala Italia Santa Giulia, which is being built with a private developer as part of a major commercial and residential development in the area. Following the Games, its legacy role would be as a multi-sport indoor complex.Calgary, meanwhile, had proposed the construction of a pair of legacy venues, a 5,000-seat mid-sized arena and the Foothills multi-sport complex (with 10,000 temporary seats), which would have hosted figure skating and short-track speed skating. Once the Games had concluded, the new arena would have been eyed as a replacement for the aging Stampede Corral while the Foothills facility would essentially become a field house that has remained a long-standing need for the city. The venues would have been largely funded through public dollars.For athlete accommodation, a 1,300-bed Olympic Village is slated to be built in Milan with plans to convert it to university housing after the Games. Additional athlete villages are planned for Cortina and Livigno, with both temporary and permanent units being planned, which would be fully funded by those regions. Three other villages are also planned for Bormio, Val di Fiemme and Antholz, for a total of more than 5,600 beds between the six locations.Calgary’s main Olympic Village had eyed a 2,900-bed facility that would be part of a new high-rise development at the old Calgary Transit bus barns site in Victoria Park, with a planned total of 760 permanent units. Smaller villages were also planned for Canmore (1,200 beds), Nakiska (700 beds) and Whistler (350 beds).For Milan-Cortina’s opening and closing ceremonies, athletes will celebrate in the massive confines of Milan’s Giussepe Meazza Stadium, where fans fill the 80,000-seat facility regularly to watch the AC Milan and Inter Milan Football Clubs. In Calgary, the nearly 60-year-old McMahon Stadium would once again have been used for the festivities it hosted in 1988, with 29,000 permanent seats and plans for 11,000 additional temporary seats.
The 1988 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.
Finances:The most significant difference between Milan-Cortina’s winning bid and Calgary’s abandoned plan comes down to dollars.The plan proposed by the Italian contingent estimates just over $2 billion CAD in expenditures to host the event compared to Calgary’s planned price tag of $5.1 billion. While the difference in price tags seems vast, there are some factors that contribute to the gap.Milan-Cortina’s proposed expenditures don’t include security costs, which in Calgary’s plan came in at $495 million. The Italian plan says the national government has guaranteed a safe and peaceful Games and will be responsible for planning and logistics for some 10,500 public security personnel for the event.Capital costs for new venues also set Milan-Cortina’s winning bid and Calgary’s abandoned bid apart. The budget for venue infrastructure proposed in the Italian bid rings up at some $343 million, while Calgary had proposed nearly $1 billion that would be spent on a new multi-purpose field house, a mid-sized arena and improvements to several existing facilities including McMahon Stadium, the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Olympic Oval, Winsport’s sliding track and others.The biggest gap between the two balance sheets is in the contingency costs. While the crafters of Calgary’s plan had built in a hefty $1.1 billion contingency fund, Milan-Cortina’s is a mere $187 million. The IOC’s appraisal of the emergency fund did raise the spectre of a “moderate” risk “given the state of budget preparation.”Public support:In the end, where Milan-Cortina’s bid clearly surpassed Calgary was in the level of public support for hosting the sporting spectacle.Public opinion was split fairly evenly for Calgarians when it came to hosting the 2026 Games, and a solid but still narrow majority of 56.4 per cent would ultimately kill the bid during last November’s plebiscite. A city-commissioned poll two months before the vote found a slim majority of 53 per cent were in favour of bidding for the Games, with 33 per cent opposed and another 13 per cent undecided.Milan-Cortina’s bid meanwhile has remained consistently popular throughout the regions where the Games will be held. Public polling conducted in March found 83 per cent of Italians overall supported the bid, with 87 per cent support in Milan, 81 per cent in Lombardy and 80 per cent in Veneto.firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @ShawnLogan403