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Majority of Calgary voters say ‘no thanks’ to 2026 Olympics

A Calgarian arrives to vote in a plebiscite, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Calgary, Alberta, on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Calgary’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics was rebuffed on Tuesday when local voters said “no” in a nonbinding referendum.

Unofficial results showed that 56 percent voted against bidding for the Olympics. Results showed that out of 767,734 eligible voters, 304,774 cast ballots and 171,750 of those voted against the Olympic bid.

The city council is expected to address the results on Monday, but there is little doubt the bid seems dead. The council has already shown skepticism, with eight of 15 members voting on Oct. 31 to scuttle the public vote. Ten votes were required for the vote not to be held.

The defeat is a huge blow to the International Olympic Committee, which has only two candidates officially declared: Stockholm, Sweden, and a joint Italian bid from Milan and Cortina D’Ampezzo. Both bids also face opposition and financing problems.

Three other cities withdrew earlier this year — Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Graz, Austria — and Turkey’s Erzurum was eliminated last month by the IOC.

The IOC was left in a similar spot for the 2022 Winter Olympics when numerous bidders withdrew. Only two unlikely cities expressed final interest, with Beijing, China, winning narrowly in an IOC vote over Almtay, Kazakhstan.

“(The vote) comes as no surprise following the political discussions and uncertainties right up until the last few days,” the IOC said in a statement. “It is disappointing that the arguments about the sporting, social and long-term benefits of hosting the Olympic Games did not sway the vote.”

The host for 2026 will be selected by the IOC in a vote on June 24 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement it was disappointed by the results. Calgary was the host for the 1988 Winter Olympics.

“The opportunity to welcome the world to Canada, where people can experience the uniting power of the Games and within our nation’s culture of peace and inclusion, would have offered countless benefits to all,” the statement said. “This would have been a unique opportunity for Canadians to be leaders in fulfilling the promise of a renewed vision for the Games.”

The results won’t be declared official until Friday. But the opposition was already celebrating.

“I think that people had enough of the establishment, telling us what to do, what to think,” local councilor Sean Chu said.

Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary 2026, called the issue “very divisive” and said it was time “to put that behind us.”

“We really wanted this dream for Calgary to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Moran said. “We learned so much about our community. We learned so much about each other.”

The Alberta government made its funding of a bid conditional on holding a vote and provided $2 million to pay for it.

“We fought many, many obstacles along the way,” said Scott Hutcheson, board chair of Calgary 2026. “We had three government partners that stepped up with billions of dollars to invest in this dream.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi voted for continuing with a bid. Calgary 2026 was hampered by last-minute negotiations over a cost-sharing agreement between the federal, provincial and city governments.

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