Ottawa, Canada—Calgary city councillors voted to keep alive Canada’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics after a last-minute funding deal struck between Ottawa and the province of Alberta.
The next hurdle is a referendum on November 13.
After more than eight hours of often acrimonious debate, councillors voted 8-7 in favor of a recommendation from the city’s Olympic committee to end their pursuit of hosting duties over a lack of cash from the central and provincial governments.
But it was not enough (10 needed) to halt the bid.
“If you look at the Olympic process around the world it’s divisive everywhere... and I think that’s what happened here,” commented councilwoman Druh Farrell, after several heated exchanges.
Hundreds of supporters of Canada’s bid, including former Olympians— most wearing Canada’s red and white colors—flooded into the Calgary city council chamber for the vote.
Outside, they waved placards that read “Go Olympics” and “Don’t Luge this Calgary,” at times breaking into chants of the national anthem.
They had the backing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said earlier, “Calgary is a world-class city. It would be great to host the Olympics in Canada.”
But inside city hall, several councilors described the proposal as “not viable and vetted” and relying on “creative accounting.”
Evan Woolley, chairman of the Olympic bid committee, said the funding deal had been struck too late to allow Calgarians to make an “educated decision.”
The agreement—which would see the original Can$3 billion (US$2.3 billion) public portion of the Games budget reduced by 10 percent and, along with it, each party’s share of the costs—has been validated by federal Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
It would see the feds pick up half of the cost, while Calgary and the province split the remainder.
The host city of the 2026 Winter Olympics will be announced in June next year in Lausanne, Switzerland. Milan and Stockholm are also in the running.