The Olympics have a problem

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Calgary said no to the Olympics — so what now?

The people of Calgary have spoken, and they don't want the Olympics. 56.4 per cent of voters in yesterday's plebiscite said they're against the city continuing to pursue a bid for the 2026 Winter Games. It would have been the second time Calgary hosted. In 1988, it was the stage for the Jamaican bobsleigh team, Eddie the Eagle and the Battle of the Brians.

What's next for Calgary?

The plebiscite result is non-binding, so the city council still has to officially kill the bid. But that will almost certainly happen in a vote on Monday. "This is very clear direction for where we go from here," said mayor Naheed Nenshi, who was in favour of the Olympics.

It's possible Calgary could try for another one down the road, but it would take a lot of work to change the minds of citizens and the council. Both were pretty sharply divided on the 2026 bid.

Sports-wise, the next big thing for Calgary is figuring out what to do about the Saddledome. It's the oldest arena in the NHL if you don't count Madison Square Garden, which got a billion-dollar reno a few years ago. The Flames have threatened to move if they don't get a new building, but Calgary doesn't want to foot too much of the bill for it.

Will Canada host the Olympics anytime soon?

The next available Olympics are in 2030, and no Canadian cities have expressed interest yet. Besides Calgary, Toronto (2024) and Quebec City (2026) kicked the tires on bids before bailing pretty early in the process. Montreal? Still licking its wounds from the financial disaster that was 1976.  Vancouver still has a lot of the facilities for a Winter Olympics, but would it want to host again so soon after 2010? Beijing is doing it 14 years apart, though, so it's not impossible.

What do the Olympics do now?

Calgary's rejection is a big blow to the International Olympic Committee. The only two candidates left for 2026 are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid involving Milan and the alpine region of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Both are trying to overcome a lack of support from governments that don't want to spend taxpayer money on the Olympics.

That points to the IOC's larger, more existential problem: fewer and fewer places want to host the Olympics. Going back to Beijing gave off an air of desperation, and when both L.A. and Paris expressed interest in 2024, the IOC took the unprecedented step of awarding them both a Games (L.A. got 2028) before they could change their minds. The IOC has tried to make hosting more palatable by encouraging more austere bids. So far, it doesn't seem to be working.

The "yes" side didn't get the answer it wanted from Calgary voters. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Quickly…

An old boys club got a little less boys-y. The Hockey Hall of Fame added Cassie Campbell-Pascall to its selection committee, making her the first woman in that role. The former Team Canada star, who's now a broadcaster on Hockey Night in Canada, isn't in the Hall of Fame herself. But she's considered a lock to someday get the call.

South Korea's Olympic darlings say they were abused. The women's curling team, nicknamed the Garlic Girls, became a national sensation en route to winning a surprise silver medal on home ice back in February. Now the five women are accusing a former Korean curling official of verbal abuse. They also say their coaches held back prize money and tried to sideline their captain after she got married this summer and they found out she planned to start a family. The coaching staff has denied the allegations and an investigation is underway.

Dwane Casey is back in Toronto. The Raptors fired Casey last spring after another early playoff exit… then saw him win the NBA's coach of the year award a few weeks later. Casey landed on his feet in Detroit, and tonight he returns to Toronto as head coach of the 6-6 Pistons. The Raptors are doing just fine without him, off to a 12-2 start under rookie head coach Nick Nurse.

There's trouble in NBA paradise. They've won two consecutive titles, and another is probably on the way this spring. So why isn't the NBA's best team happy? The Warriors suspended defensive ace Draymond Green for one game after his on-court shouting match with teammate Kevin Durant reportedly escalated in the locker room. Durant can become a free agent after this season, and there was already speculation before this incident that he'll leave Golden State.

One of football's biggest stars has chosen to sit out the season. All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell had until late yesterday to accept a one-year, $ 14.4 million US offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers or else miss the entire year. The deadline passed, and Bell will have a chance to land the long-term contract he wants when he becomes a free agent in a few months. A similar situation is playing out in the NHL, where William Nylander is holding out for a better deal from the Leafs.

The NFL bailed on its game in Mexico City. A potential Super Bowl preview between the Rams and Chiefs this Monday night was moved out of Azteca Stadium because of poor field conditions. Some players reportedly even said they'd refuse to play for fear of being injured. The game will be played in the Rams' stadium in L.A. instead.


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