How does Calgary stack up with the other 2026 Olympics candidates?

What began as a robust group of potential host cities for the 2026 Winter Olympics has been reduced to three remaining candidates.

On Thursday, the IOC approved Calgary, Stockholm and a combined Italian bid involving Milan and the northern alpine region of Cortina d'Ampezzo to move forward with bids for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The bidding process has seen multiple cities drop out, including Sapporo, Japan and Sion, Switzerland because of political opposition and concerns about unknown costs. 

Watch IOC president Thomas Bach announce the 3 finalists:

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announces that Calgary, Stockholm and Milan/Cortina d'Ampezzo will be proposed as official candidates to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. 2:32

The IOC will announce the winning city in September 2019. 

So who will win?

CBC Sports reached out to three experts familiar with the Olympic bidding process to help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the remaining three candidates. Robert Livingstone runs the website Gamesbids.com and follows the process closely. Lisa Delpy is the director of the sport management program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and has written extensively about the bidding process. Dave Doroghy is an international sports marketing executive who was involved in the successful Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Olympic bids.

Here is their analysis:

Calgary

Pros: Calgary's bid has a number of things going for it. First off, supporters of the bid have been working on it longer than the competition. Also, Canada is a winter nation with a strong track record of hosting the Olympics and there are existing facilities from Calgary's 1988 Winter Games and Vancouver's in 2010. 

Livingstone: "It's a very well-organized project that's been going on for two three years, which is a lot more we can then we can say with the other bids. There's a lot of confidence, there's facilities in place in Calgary [that would be upgraded or renovated] and a chance to build on a Olympic legacy that still resonates from 1988. The potential legacy is a valuable legacy. They don't anticipate white elephants."

Doroghy:  "Canada has a great reputation for hosting great Olympic Games. It's a safe destination to go to. The IOC and world look upon Canada as a nation that can not only organize Winter Games but do it with a great spirit. It all boils down to government backing and the degree to which the federal, provincial and municipal governments will get behind it. In Canada, the federal government backing of $ 1.5 billion and the statements made to date by the provincial government all seem very positive when it comes to government backing — and that's important."  

Cons: The Calgary bid has a number of things working against. It is holding a plebiscite on Nov. 13 that will ask Calgarians if they want to continue pursuing the Games. It's non-binding, but an overwhelming result on either side will go a long way toward shaping political decisions going forward.

And a vocal opposition group, No Calgary, has mobilized and is diligently working to shape public opinion ahead of the November vote.

Beyond that, there is the familiarity factor.

Delpy: "The problem is now, OK, you've had 2010, you've had 1988, and then you have 2026. That's a lot of Winter Olympics in one country. Also, the problem with Calgary is you have an opposition group that's pretty strong. Also, Canada is hosting the 2026 World Cup. So there's a lot of concern about the money you're going to have to upgrade."

Doroghy: "The positive that Canada has hosted fantastic games can also work as a negative. Many people are asking is it fair to have an Olympics for the fourth time in such a short period. The Games can't keep being awarded to the same countries over and over again."

Stockholm

Stockholm represents Sweden's strong history in Winter Olympics. (Henrik Montgomery/Associated Press)

Pros: The bid has strong support from the Swedish Olympic Committee and proposes very little in terms of new buildings and facilities. It also has an advantage within the IOC, according to Delpy: Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg is a longtime member of its powerful executive.

Delpy: "Right now I see it as the strongest bid. They're known for winter sports. So Sweden typically does well in the Winter Games. They also have the climate and they have the mountains. Stockholm has the hotels and it's known for tourists as a popular destination."

Livingstone: "Building a couple of new venues that they need and the fact it's a strong winter sports country that has never hosted the Winter Olympics is a plus."

Cons: There is no government backing at this point.

Livingstone: "They have zero government interest in it — none at any level. Nobody wants to talk about it, which is a big problem because they need all levels of government to provide guarantees."

Doroghy: "The government is not backing this bid but despite this, the Swedish Olympic Committee continues to move forward with the application. Government support is key because it says that no matter what goes wrong, where we go off the rails, the government will be there with a guarantee. That doesn't exist in Sweden right now. It is safe, a great tourist destination and a chance for the IOC to return the Olympics to Europe, but there doesn't seem to be the strong commitment needed from the Swedish government."

Cortina d'Ampezzo and Milan

Milan's bid is shared with the northern Italian ski region of Cortina d'Ampezzo. (Luca Bruno/Associated Press)

Pros: Italy has a strong Olympic tradition having hosted both Winter and Summer Olympics previously.

Livingstone: "They have that Olympic tradition. They have the infrastructure. Cortina hosted the 1956 Games and the facilities would obviously have to be upgraded, but they have a start there. Milan can definitely host a lot of the ice events as they've got arenas there and other infrastructure. Across the region, they have ski facilities. They wouldn't have to build too much. And they are that traditional winter atmosphere the IOC is looking for and it's in Europe and the IOC really wants to be there. So that's a big plus."

Cons: Italy's financial issues are a concern for the IOC.

Livingstone: "They're just so disorganized and so embedded in politics that it's hard. The Rome bid for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics didn't make it to the end because politics got in the way and they lost support. There's no answer to whether the IOC will support something that doesn't have financial backing from the federal government. There are just too many question marks and based on experience with Italy, there's a possibility it won't survive."

Delpy: "The Italian Olympic Committee is very wealthy, but it has no government money. You know Italy is having a hard time right now. Also, Turin 2006 was kind of a bust in terms of spirit and organization. So there's questions in terms of the IOC having confidence they will be able to pull it off successfully."

Rankings each cities chances

Delpy:

  1. Stockholm
  2. Calgary
  3. Cortina D'Ampezzo /Milan

Doroghy:

  1. Calgary
  2. Stockholm
  3. Milan/Cortina D'Ampezzo

Livingstone:

  1. Milan/Cortina D'Ampezzo
  2. Calgary
  3. Stockholm

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