What would the economic picture of hosting a prospective Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games look like?
Hosting an international sporting event like the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (OPWG) on a world stage is a significant undertaking that includes multiple sport venues, infrastructure and transportation to support sporting events and thousands of spectators; as well as security to ensure all who come to celebrate are safe and secure to enjoy the Games. All of which, comes at a cost.
CBEC’s estimated total cost to host the 2026 OPWG Calgary is $4.6 billion. The largest portion of this total is the operating cost of the Games at approximately $2.6 billion – a figure that lines up with the average operating costs of the last few Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
These costs cover a wide range of services largely driven by Games operations, technology and royalty costs.
- Games operations are every aspect that goes into the execution of the Games. Operations ensure that everything runs smoothly including: the staging of the opening and closing ceremonies; operation of the Olympic and Paralympic villages (food service, housekeeping, maintenance, etc.); transportation of athletes; logistics; snow removal; sanitation; and food and beverage services.
- Technology has become an integral aspect to a successful Games and requires systems to coordinate and manage events across all venues; timing and scoring systems to ensure accurate results; and energy services for broadcast operations.
- Olympic royalties payable from ticketing and domestic sponsorships back to Olympic committees including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). These royalty payments are in return for the right to use the Olympic rings and other trademarks.
The total cost of the Games would be offset by the operating revenue from the Games themselves, which is estimated to be $2.2 billion. Revenues of the Games are generated from a number of sources, including the IOC, sponsorships, ticket sales and licensing agreements.
- The IOC is estimated to contribute in the neighbourhood of $700 million in cash to assist in the organizing and execution of the Games. This does not include over $200 million in “in kind” services including the provision of Games expertise and Games-related resources.
- The COC and Calgary would split domestic sponsorship dollars contributed from businesses across Canada. Calgary could anticipate approximately $820 million as its share of the revenue.
- CBEC’s financial models estimate approximately $320 million to be raised through ticket sales for Olympic events and another $350 million to be raised from other sources, including merchandising and licensing.,
With these revenues considered, the total $4.6 billion cost of the Games would leave $2.4 billion in required funding.
The City of Calgary would not be responsible for solely funding of the Games if a bid and hosting the Games were to proceed. All levels of government would need to play a part in the Games as Calgary, Alberta and Canada would share the spotlight on the world stage. While discussions of how much each level of government would put forth are premature, there are programs in place to supports events of this magnitude. For example, the federal government has a funding model that will support half of the funding requirement for two major multi-sport events in Canada every 10 years. This could cover $1.2 billion of a 2026 OPWG’s total cost.
There are associated economic benefits anticipated from preparing for and hosting a potential Games as well. According to research from the Conference Board of Canada and Deloitte LLP, between $2.2 and $2.6 billion of increased direct and indirect Gross Domestic Product (the value of final goods and services) would be added to the economy over 9 years, including over $500 million in tax revenues to be spread across all levels of governments. These estimates do not include the economic impact from tourism, nor do they include the induced or long term socioeconomic benefits the Games could generate.
All of these costs and revenues represent the financial picture of what a 2026 OPWG could look like if the City of Calgary chooses to move ahead in conjunction with the provincial and federal governments. This representative case helps provide Calgarians, Albertans and Canadians with a better understanding of the costs associated with the Games as well as potential revenues and required government contributions.
The IOC is reviewing the processes for bidding and hosting the Games in an effort to reduce not only the cost to bid for a Games, but also the cost to host a Games. CBEC is continuing to speak to the IOC and COC and is waiting for the official 2026 Candidature Guidelines and Host City contract details that will give concrete answers on whether or not there are further savings to be found.