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Calgary eyes Whistler as possible location for Olympic jumps

Facilities linked to Calgary's potential 2026 bid

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Calgary city council voted to keep its 2026 Olympic bid alive on Monday, meaning there's a chance a few of the Games' events could find their way to Whistler.

"We were approached, towards the end of last winter, by the Calgary organizing committee, and asked if we would be interested in joint-hosting a couple of events here in Whistler," said Roger Soane, President and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies. "Specifically, the ski jumping and the Nordic combined."

A formal joint-hosting bid is far from finalized, but the possibility of it happening was given a boost after Calgary city council approved an extra $2 million in funding to keep exploring the benefits of hosting the Games.

A report to the community by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee handed out this July listed using Whistler's ski-jumping facility as one of three possible options for the ski-jumping events. The other options were building new jumps at Canmore Nordic Centre or making extensive upgrades to the obsolete jumps in Calgary left over from the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

While initial talks have occurred between the committee, Whistler Sport Legacies and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the report noted that they have yet to talk with the province of B.C. about having events here.

"Putting a bid together is not an inexpensive proposition, and I know they've spent the summer getting all the support they need with the City of Calgary and the province of Alberta and the federal government. We haven't been involved in that in any way, shape or form. We're basically a venue and a destination to say, 'we would be happy to be involved if we can make it work,'" explained Soane.

Whistler's ski jumps are currently competition ready, and will be hosting an FIS event in December. Some upgrades could be required by 2026 — by then the facility will be almost 20 years old — but they would pale in comparison to the cost of building a new jump. However, the transportation and security costs associated with getting athletes from Calgary to Whistler are one of the main challenges facing a potential partnership.

The possibility of an Olympic bid won't be brought before Calgary city council again until 2018, and it's possible other cities like Edmonton and Vancouver could also be considered for joint-hosting duties.

One of the reasons Calgary is doing so much research is the growing concern over the financial burden of hosting the Games. The deserted stadiums in Sochi, Russia (2014 Winter Olympics) and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016 Summer Olympics) have become symbols of the type of wasted infrastructure the Olympics creates. The ability to re-use facilities has become a central part of this round of Olympic bids.

"At the end of the day, how many sliding centres do you need around the world? How many ski jumping venues do we need around the world when we're talking about hundreds of athletes, not thousands?" said Soane. "When it comes to these types of events that need such specific types of infrastructure built, that cannot be necessarily used by the general public, I think it's important that the Olympic movement move towards reusing these venues. Otherwise, I think these sports could become extinct."

Only Sion, Switzerland has officially bid for the 2026 Winter Games. But a number of cities that have hosted in the past are among those potentially placing a bid, including: Salt Lake City, Utah; Sapporo, Japan; and Lillehammer, Norway.

The deadline to present 2026 bids to the IOC is January 2019.

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