With the news that Calgary City Council voted to move forward with its 2026 Olympics bid process, now holding a public plebiscite on Nov. 13, residents will soon head to the ballot box to choose between two options:
- “I am for Calgary hosting”
- “I am against Calgary hosting”
But how does Calgary actually stack up against other 2026 Olympic bid contenders?
Robert Livingstone, a sports journalist out of Toronto who lives and breathes all things Olympics explains that there are five contenders still in the race.
Leading the pack: Calgary, Alberta
Livingstone, the producer of GamesBids, a website dedicated to providing a comprehensive look at all Olympic bids, suggests that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sees Calgary as a great candidate.
The city has several favourable aspects, including established venues, a dependable winter landscape that the IOC favours and a North American time zone which lends itself to American broadcasts.
“For the IOC, Calgary’s selling point is that there is a strong organization in place,” says Livingstone. “There is tentative government support at this point, so if the public supports it through the plebiscite, the IOC would think of [Calgary] as a great option.”
Calgary’s main weakness, per Livingstone, is the unpredictability of the impending plebiscite. The $5.23-billion price tag is also a concern for the IOC, as Livingstone states that it is higher than any of the other bidding cities in contention.
Mary Moran, CEO of the Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Corporation, says that the recent developments have made the public aware of just how “real” Calgary’s chances are despite still being in competition with other bidding cities.
“I think it is important to remind people that we are in a competitive bid process,” says Moran. “As it stands today [Sept.13], there are five other cities that have indicated interest in putting a bid forward and we will know in October, for sure, how many of those cities will be selected by the IOC to proceed with their candidature.”
- The economics of 2026: No wonder people are confused!
- This ain’t 1988 anymore: Olympic security and Calgary 2026. Q&A with local terrorism expert Gavin Cameron
- A history of exclusion: 2026 Calgary Olympics ‘has to be different’
A worthy challenger: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin, Italy
Livingstone says that a three-city bid from Italy is another top contender for the 2026 games.
“There’s a lot of potential in Italy if they can get their act together,” says Livingstone. “They could definitely be the location that trumps Calgary. It really depends whether they can sell this concept — the three city widespread concept under a national banner— to the IOC.”
Italy offers the traditional winter landscape that the IOC loves, recent experience with Turin hosting the 2006 winter games and leverage due to existing facilities, yet Livingstone says the three-city concept may be difficult to implement.
“It might be difficult to coordinate,” says Livingstone, adding that Italy’s main weakness is that their bid still lacks municipal support.
Falling behind: Stockholm, Sweden and Sigulda, Latvia
According to Livingstone, Stockholm holds strengths in not only their existing infrastructure and facilities, but also their reputation as a traditional winter setting.
“They have a lot of facilities already built, similar to Calgary, but I think even more so,” explains Livingstone. “I think some preference would be given to a European city, especially one with a good winter sports history.”
The weakness of Stockholm, however, exists in a lack of political support at all levels of government. This lack of political support, according to Livingstone, could likely be the downfall of the Swedish bid.
“The weakness is clear — they don’t have government support, which is essential,” says Livingstone.
Wildcard: Erzurum, Turkey
Livingstone says the atypical choice of Erzurum, Turkey does hold some merit in its past hosting of other winter events, along with a colder climate in northern Turkey.
Livingstone adds that political instability, security concerns and lack of clarity in planning makes Erzurum a longshot for selection.
“All the other cities have been working diligently to move forward, and Erzurum we just haven’t heard anything about,” says Livingstone. “So I can’t imagine their plans are highly developed.”
Robert Livingstone on Olympics 2026
Better luck next time: Sapporo, Japan
While still technically in the running, Livingstone says Sapporo is expected to drop from contention in the coming week following reports from local Japanese news outlet Kyodo News.
“It’s kind of been an expectation for many months now that [Japan] was going to bid for 2030 instead of 2026,” says Livingstone. “To me, it seemed like they were staying in the race as a courtesy to the IOC (…) but very early on they shifted their focus on 2030 because they needed some infrastructure that wasn’t going to be ready in 2026, mainly this rail connection that should be delivered in 2031, but they’re going to try and push it to 2030.”
If none of the contenders move forward in the hosting process, Livingstone says the IOC will likely call on Salt Lake City, Utah to host the games, as they currently hold the proper infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the games, along with support from government.