Moran handed torch for Calgary 2026 Olympic bid

(Reuters) - Calgary took another step toward making a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics on Tuesday when Mary Moran was named chief executive officer for the group tasked with exploring the potential of hosting the Games.

Moran, who becomes the first woman in Canada to spearhead an Olympic bid, will take a leave of absence from her current position as president and chief executive officer of Calgary Economic Development in order to implement the strategic direction of Calgary 2026.

“There are four big things we have to focus on, the first one is completing a rigorous analysis that needs to be done so we can get all parties agreeing to what the costs are going to be,” Moran told Reuters in a phone call from Calgary after her appointment was announced.

“Then I would say the second big priority is going to be making sure we get the multi-party agreement done, the third would be the plebiscite and all the way along in that is public engagement.

“Also I think Calgarians have a lot of questions and we need to start listening to them and have healthy discussions about the concerns or hopes that they have.”

Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Games, Swedish capital Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and an Italian bid involving Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin have all expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Games, according to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcement in April.

The IOC has struggled in recent years to convince potential candidates of the benefits of hosting the Games and about a dozen cities have withdrawn bids.

Earlier this month the Austrian city Graz withdrew from the running for the 2026 Games when it did not get the necessary political backing and support.

Swiss voters in June killed off their country’s chances of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics after refusing to approve financial support for the bid centered on the city of Sion.

Calgary 2026 is facing a similar hurdle with the city set to stage a plebiscite later this year to measure public support for a bid.

The cost of staging the Games is the main concern of most Calgarians.

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee delivered a cost estimate of $4.6-billion, considerably less than the $13.1 billion invested in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games and the $50 billion that Russia spent to host the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Moran’s challenge will be to not only produce a detailed cost estimate but also show how the Games will be paid for and what contributions can be counted on from the city, province, Government of Canada, the private sector and the IOC.

“There is a lot of misinformation floating out there and we need to ensure we are all singing from the same song sheet so we are having the same conversation,” said Moran.

“I think a lot of numbers are being thrown around and what is important is that Calgary 2026 needs to feel comfortable with numbers and we are still going through that process.

“Any number that is floating around out there is not a number that Calgary 2026 agrees upon so they need to wait for that. We don’t have a number right now and it would be unfair to speculate what that might be.”

An IOC session in October will invite candidates for the 2026 Games to bid formally and a host city will be selected in September, 2019.

Editing by Toby Davis