The world is running out of cities that are willing to host the Olympics.
Last night, residents of Calgary, Canada, voted no on a special plebiscite to host the 2026 Winter Games, making them the fifth city to drop out as a potential candidate. Stockholm, Sweden, and a joint bid between Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo remain the only two finalists, but even their futures are on the rocks.
Though Calgary hosted a successful 1988 Winter games, and 11 of the sports venues built for the event still stand, over half the voters rejected the idea to bring the Games back, citing the huge financial risk as something the city wouldn’t be able to recover from.
To host the two-week-long event, Calgary, Alberta, and the federal government would have spent an estimated $5.1 billion combined, according to The Globe and Mail. While the city wouldn’t have had to start completely from scratch by building all new architecture, two additional arenas and the athlete’s village would have needed to be built on top of the retrofits and infrastructure upgrades done for the games.
Unofficial #yycvote results for Vote 2018:
304,774 Ballots Cast
132,832 FOR Calgary hosting (43.6%)
171,750 AGAINST Calgary hosting (56.4%)
— City of Calgary (@cityofcalgary) November 14, 2018
Despite support from Mayor Naheed Nenshi and a strong campaign by the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation, which saw the Games as an opportunity to “put the city back on the map,” the message was clear: 56 percent of voters opposed the project. Critics say Calgary can now use the budget money it would have invested in the Olympics to take on new, much-needed public projects similar to the dazzling new Central Library, designed by Snøhetta, which opened last week.
Though yesterday’s vote was non-binding, the mayor and local city officials say they’ll respect their constituents’ decision and officially suspend Calgary’s Olympic bid at a council meeting on Monday.
Finding a solid host site is proving more challenging for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) year after year. Out of the seven countries that submitted bids for 2026, Sion, Switzerland, Sapporo, Japan, and Graz, Austria all withdrew earlier this year. The IOC eliminated Eruzum, Turkey, from the list in October due to its lack of experience hosting large-scale sporting events.
Stockholm’s plan for the games puts some sporting venues two hours outside the city—a potential cause for IOC concern, and its incoming government coalition is determined to get rid of taxpayer funding for the events. Italy’s joint bid for Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo was just finalized this month after Turin, the 2006 Olympic host city, dropped out of the effort. The Italian government supports the decision but says it won’t offer a single euro to help.
The IOC is set to make its final decision for 2026 in June.