Olympic athlete Seyi Smith speaks to media outside council chambers on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Hearing the news Monday that Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo won their bid to host the 2026 Winter Games was “bittersweet” for Olympian Oluseyi Smith.Smith, who was one of the athletes who threw his support behind a potential Calgary Olympic bid before it was rejected in a plebiscite last year, thinks Calgary would have been chosen over Italy if the local bid had moved forward.“It’s kind of like when you see somebody you’ve been racing against in a race win a big medal, and you say, ‘oh, I could have beaten that guy, easily,’” Smith said.But both Smith and Paralympian Michelle Salt, who had also lent her support to the Calgary bid efforts, wished Italy good luck with the Games.“We would have done such a great job of hosting the Games as Canadians,” Salt said. “However, throughout the six years that I was a high-performance athlete, I would say that my favourite competition was Italy, in 2016. So though yes, it is disappointing…I have no doubt that Italy is going to put on a fantastic job.”Milan earned 47 votes from the International Olympic Committee membership, compared to Stockholm’s 34.Milan and Stockholm were the only candidates left after four other cities — Switzerland’s Sion, Japan’s Sapporo, Austria’s Graz and Calgary — had dropped out of the race. Turkey’s Erzurum was cut by the IOC.“Congratulations to Milan-Cortina. We can look forward to outstanding and sustainable Olympic Winter Games in a traditional winter sports country,” IOC President Thomas Bach said after announcing the winner.The organizational budget of the Games is just over $2 billion CAD, according to the bid file, but that does not include infrastructure projects.Bach said the strong public support in Italy of over 80 per cent was a key factor, with Stockholm having had just over 50 per cent of local support in a recent IOC-commissioned poll.Italy last hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006 in Turin while Cortina staged the Winter Games back in 1956.Related
Jason Ribeiro, who was an organizer with pro-bid group Yes Calgary 2026, said the news of Italy’s winning bid doesn’t change anything in his view about “what work still remains ahead for Calgary.”“I think we have to have a very frank conversation about how we value sport and recreation, sport business, fandom, social inclusion through sport,” he said. “I think that we have to have a more robust conversation about what this means to our community. Potentially what things are we willing to give up? What things are we willing to reinvest in?”Smith, who competed as a sprinter in the London 2012 Summer Olympics and as a bobsledder in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, is keeping his fingers crossed for another Canadian Olympic bid.“The Olympics will be a questionable venture in people’s minds until it no longer is a questionable venture, and I thought that we had the expertise and the will and just the quality to make it no longer a questionable venture by doing it our way,” Smith said.“I think bringing the Olympics back to Canada will be good for the Olympics, because we can do it properly and profitably. But I think it will be really good for the country just because it‘s so easy to forget how we all felt after Vancouver in the moment, but it’s even easier to forget or maybe not see the second-hand benefits to sport — not just in the Vancouver area but all over, because of the investment that we made in sport after 2010.”— With files from Reuters