Could Whistler be set to play host to another Olympic Games?
Perhaps. But do we want to?
Earlier this month, the people of Calgary learned more about that city's $5.2-billion bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the ski jumping events proposed to take place in the Callaghan Valley, the 2010 venue for Nordic competition.
Six open-house sessions are being held in Calgary up to Oct. 16 to gauge support for the Games, which need $3 billion in public funding. Then a plebiscite will be held Nov.13.
Even at this early stage, the Calgary bid is being called out on its financial figures.
Moshe Lander, a sports economist at Montreal's Concordia University, predicted the real cost of the Games will reach nearly $8 billion.
"Normally the number that is presented to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the number that actually comes in when all of the numbers are added up, there's usually about a 50-per-cent cost overrun on average," Lander told CBC earlier this month.
Whistler and Vancouver's 2010 Games cost $7.7 billion, with the venues costing $750 million. It's hard to believe that a bid almost nine years later could be less than our Games.
It's also hard to fathom that the IOC is entertaining the idea of a Games that has venues so far apart, considering what a fuss it made in 2010 calling out the condition of Sea to Sky Highway and saying Whistler and Vancouver were too far apart.
But hosting the ski jumping in the Callaghan is really a question of cost. To fix up the Alberta jumps would cost $100 million; to ready Whistler's jumps: $35 million.
These days, as the IOC faces a reality in which no one wants to bid or host these mega events, the organization is having to reassess how Games are hosted. Remember the Beijing Games—US$44 billion to hold. What about the 2014 Sochi Games? $51 billion!
In light of this, it makes sense to reuse old venues.
But it's not all smooth sailing when it comes to this dual-province bid. Some, like Calgary city Councillor Joe Magliocca, are upset that an Alberta bid would even think of partnering with B.C. after we refused to support the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
It would be "a slap in the face to the energy sector," he told the Canadian Press.
Sport and politics—always destined to be bedfellows, it seems.
One has to ask: what's in it for us?
Since our Games in 2010, the $119.7-million Whistler Olympic Park has continued to find success, though it remains subsidized by taxpayer funds through the Games Operating Trust (GOT), which in June of this year had assets of $155 million, up from the $110 million put into the fund following our Games.
In November of 2017, Whistler Sports Legacies (WSL), the organization that manages Whistler's Olympic legacy venues (Whistler Olympic Park and the Sliding Centre and the Athletes' Centre at Cheakamus) received $4,613,915 from the GOT.
And 2016 marked the first time the Callaghan facility was in the black after years of deficits. It saw 2,222 athletes use the facility and welcomed 65,000 visitors. The schools program also saw a marked increase, with visits up 31 per cent to 2,491 kids, according to the 2017 Annual Report for WSL.
There are currently three local, world-class training and competition venues. Today the park is recognized as a national training centre for ski jumping and Nordic Combined and is home of the Whistler Nordic Development Centre, a year-round, full-time training hub for Nordic development athletes. Recently, 20- and 40-metre junior ski jumps were constructed to introduce skiers to ski jumping.
So do we need the hassle of the 2026 Games? It feels like the venue is doing just fine.
I would argue, yes. Not only will it keep Whistler on the world stage it will also bring an indefinable excitement to our town, and continue to support the amazing athletes that are being born and raised right here.
And before you draw the "we are too busy for the Games" card, let's just be honest about how far out we can see on the economic timeline.
Are we absolutely sure our success will be still be going strong in eight years?
We are masters of hosting these types of events. We were built for it, literally.
I say, bring it on.