CALGARY – The draft hosting plan for the 2026 Calgary and Canmore Olympic and Paralympic Games sets out mountain venues at Nakiska, Canmore and Whistler.
The Bid Corporation made the concept plan public on Tuesday (Sept. 11) in Calgary and the plan does not propose Lake Louise Ski Area as a venue for the mega-sporting events.
BidCo CEO Mary Moran said through the process of assessing possible host venues, they heard the concerns expressed about using the ski hill inside Banff National Park loud and clear.
“There was a lot of feedback we received from the community on that, so we listened,” Moran said.
The announcement was met with relief from environmental groups like Canmore-based Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Y2Y, along with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, opposed using a location inside the national park as part of a potential bid because the groups felt infrastructure development and crowds would impair the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s ecological integrity.
“We are grateful to our municipal and provincial leaders who listened to our concerns and understood that the negative impact an Olympic site would have on the park made it an inappropriate venue,” Y2Y president and chief scientist Jody Hilty wrote in a press release.
Hilty pointed out the Lake Louise area, which is part of the greater Yellowstone to Yukon region, already faces conservation challenges due to increasing numbers of visitors. Those challenges include keeping wildlife populations safely connected across roads, minimizing human-wildlife conflicts and maintaining quality recreation opportunities.
“Should the Olympic bid advance, we expect the right resources will be in place to both minimize any impacts and leave a conservation legacy in affected areas of Yellowstone to Yukon such as Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley,” Hilty added. “We look forward to helping prioritize and implement such legacy work.”
Moran said BidCo consulted with international sporting organizations for alpine events and assessed Nakiska Ski Resort as a venue. She said the Kananaskis Country ski hill, which was created to host the 1988 Games, met all requirements.
“We have decided to keep it at Nakiska, which will also have investment to make it a better ski resort,” said Moran, adding the organization will work to address environmental concerns and, with Indigenous communities, consider how that ski hill might change to host events.
The plan sets out that Nakiska would host parallel giant slalom, ski cross, snowboard cross, slalom, giant slalom, downhill, super-G and combined events.
Capital improvements for Nakiska in the draft hosting plan include new course development, upgrades to existing technical and speed ski courses, enhanced safety equipment, facility and utility upgrades, base area improvements, speed course safety netting and fencing, a downhill course tunnel, warming hut and environmental improvements.
An athlete’s village would not be required in Kananaskis, she said, because the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge would be used for the event.
The Canmore Nordic Centre would host cross-country and biathlon events and Whistler Olympic Park would host ski jumping and Nordic combined events. Aerials, big air, halfpipe, moguls and slopestyle events are proposed for the Winsport Ski Hill at Calgary Olympic Park.
The Nordic Centre would see capital improvements for its base area, utility upgrades and facility relocation, as well as transit infrastructure. There would also be improvements for ParaNordic sports and snowmaking.
According to the draft hosting plan, by using ski jumps in the Callaghan Valley near Whistler, legacy venues from the 2010 Games, the result is a savings of $50 million.
Those ski jumps continue to meet international standards, unlike the ones in Calgary, and have a capacity of 7,500. Minor facility renovations would be needed, summer use of the jumps would be developed, cross-country trail and ski jump alignment would occur in the stadium and utilities would be upgraded – including fibre optic capacity.
The draft hosting plan was presented to City of Calgary council on Tuesday (Sept. 11) and after a lengthy in-camera session to receive an update from its administration, elected officials voted to move forward with a plebiscite.
A plebiscite is scheduled for citizens of Calgary to vote yes or no on the question of hosting the 2026 Games on Nov. 13. Canmore council is expected to vote on whether to take part in the bid officially on Nov. 6.
Moran championed the draft hosting plan as one that is modest, modern and achievable and that would meet the expectations set out by the International Olympic Committee in its Agenda 2020 process.
“The IOC has undergone a wholesale change,” Moran said. “Their Agenda 2020 is about this modest and modern Games and they are really trying to fit into the community, the city, the region and the country’s long term objectives.
“Calgary 2026 will be the first Games to embrace the entire Agenda 2020 right from bid development all the way through to delivery of the Games. This is Calgary, Canmore, Alberta and Canada’s opportunity to develop the most responsible bid and set up the community to deliver the most responsible Games.”
Moran went through details of the budget for both Olympic and Paralympic events – an estimated total price tag of $5.2 billion. That number represents both the cost of operations for sporting events and capital costs to prepare venues and housing in advance.
The budget presentation set out that three levels of government would be required to invest $3 billion in order to make the 2026 events possible.
Moran pointed out that the $2.4 billion needed to operate the Games would be offset by $2.2 billion in revenue from the IOC, domestic sponsorship and ticket sales. The remaining $220 million would be a contribution by all three levels of government to the Paralympics specifically.
“(The Paralympics) is newer and it is harder to get the volume and number of revenue streams we can get for the Olympic Games and we know for government agendas, whether it is the city, province, or federal government, this is pretty important for them,” Moran said. “To make venues and sport accessible to Canadians is really important.”