Parks Canada awaiting Olympic proposal
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 06:00 am
Parks Canada isn’t shutting down talks with an Olympic bid committee on the prospect of Lake Louise ski hill hosting alpine events should Calgary decide to pursue the 2026 winter games.
Ski hill officials say they’re keen to host ski events if Calgary ends up making a bid, while conservationists say Parks Canada will have a fight on its hands if Banff National Park is even considered as a potential venue.
Parks Canada officials say the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) contacted them earlier this year, but there has been no formal proposal yet to consider hosting ski events events at Lake Louise.
Tania Peters, a spokesperson for Parks Canada, said the federal agency will conduct a thorough review, based on policy and legislation, when they receive a proposal for consideration.
“Without understanding the implications and requirements of such a proposal, we are not in a position to make any judgments about what would be involved or whether or not this event could occur at the Lake Louise Ski Area,” she said in a statement.
Last year, the Canadian Olympic Committee reached out to several Canadian cities to see if there was interest for hosting the 2026 Winter Games or 2028 Summer Games – and Calgary expressed interest for 2026.
The CBEC was contracted by the City of Calgary to do a feasibility study into whether the City should participate in the formal bid process with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
For the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Parks Canada ruled against any Olympic alpine skiing occurring in Banff National Park, which led to construction of the Nakiska ski hill in Kananaskis Country.
The IOC is recommending that bidding committees look into which existing facilities can be reused. Nakiska, however, currently does not meet IOC’s course requirements.
Sean Beardow, CBEC’s communications manager, said the committee is looking at several options for hosting alpine events, including Lake Louise.
“We’re evaluating Lake Louise as a potential venue. Obviously, it’s a current world cup venue, so obviously it makes a lot of sense to take a look at it,” he said.
Beardow confirmed there have been some discussions with Parks Canada.
“It’s in a national park and it’s a conversation we’re having to understand how using that spot as a potential venue fits into their long-term plans and whether or not there’s alignment there,” he said.
Conservationists are calling on Parks Canada to shut down the conversation now, saying the federal agency has a mandate to say no outright based on existing policy and legislation.
“It’s a dumb idea that comes up every generation and this should be nipped in the bud. It needs to be stopped now, not discussed any further,” said Harvey Locke, a Banff resident who is co-founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative.
“It will be a global controversy that will ruin the reputation of Banff National Park and Parks Canada. I will personally lead the global fight if I have to.”
Locke fears should Lake Louise be pursued as a venue, it will uncork a development boom in the national park at the expense of park’s wildlife, including grizzly bears.
“The argument will be we can’t embarrass ourselves in the eyes of the world, that we have to build new things,” he said.
“The reason we have development caps and policy in place is to avoid never-ending demands from people wanting to exploit national parks.”
Locke said the area will already be under intense environmental pressure should the ski hill move ahead with its development plans, which could accommodate up to 11,500 visitors a day – more than double the current capacity – over the next 10 to 15 years.
“The Olympics are for a two-week period. This is not what national parks are for,” he said.
Lake Louise, however, is very interested in the prospect of hosting Olympic alpine events.
“We haven’t been in official negotiations, but we’re an obvious choice because we hold world cup races every year,” said Dan Markham, director of brand and communications for Lake Louise Ski Resort.
“We will work with CBEC and Parks Canada to evaluate the possibility. Lake Louise is certainly interested.”
New Olympic events such as slope style and border cross have been introduced since the last time Calgary hosted the Olympics in 1988 when Nakiska ski resort hosted alpine events.
“We’ve not only done world cup ski events, but we’d also be able to handle technical alpine and also possibly boarder cross and ski cross events,” said Markham.
“I know we’re open certainly to pursuing further if there’s interest from the CBEC side to forward a formal proposal.”
Three decades ago, the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games cost about $1 billion. In 2026, that could be the price tag just to secure them. Some have pegged the total cost at $5.3 billion – less than the $7.7 billion spent on Vancouver in 2010.
The CBEC is to report back to the City of Calgary council in late July with a recommendation.
The IOC will name the host city of the 2026 Winter Games in 2019.