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Olympic Elite at Odds with Alberta Values


Colin Craig

If the Princess of Lichtenstein pops by Alberta for the 2026 Olympics, Albertans will be responsible for ensuring she has someone to carry her bags. You see, she’s not merely royalty in Lichtenstein; she’s also an elite member of the International Olympic Committee. As per the Olympics’ contract with host cities, she’ll be entitled to an assistant. Similarly, taxpayers will be responsible for providing Sir Austin Sealy, the Olympic rep from Barbados, with a driver if he decides to pop by Edmonton to take in an Olympic event.

The requirement to provide over 100 Olympic dignitaries with assistants is just one example of how the Olympics have grown into an enormous, elitist event over the years – one that is at odds with the grassroots, common sense culture that is pervasive in Alberta.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter whether you’re living in Calgary or Camrose, Edmonton or Edson, all Alberta taxpayers will be footing the bill for the Olympics through the billions of dollars that the Alberta government and the federal government will have to contribute.

While some readers may have fond memories of the 1988 Olympics, everything has changed since the last time Calgary hosted the Olympics. Today, the Olympics have grown into an enormous, multi-billion dollar sports gala and there’s a lot on the line when it comes to deciding who gets the colossal event… just ask the people of Chicago.

Last fall, Chicagoans learned their city may have lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics due to Rio de Janeiro’s team allegedly bribing Olympic officials. The head of Rio’s bid was arrested last year after officials discovered 16 gold bars in his Swiss bank account and other evidence.

Calgary’s team would never offer a bribe, but what happens if another city does and we become the next Chicago? There goes $35 million. Spend a bit of time on Google and you’ll find many other stories of alleged Olympic bribes.

Closer to home, the lavish lifestyle of the Olympic movement has also gripped the Canadian Olympic Committee. In 2015, the Canadian Olympic Committee spent more than $1 million just to celebrate the opening of their new office in Montreal. The same people spent $3 million on the facility’s new boardroom.

Rightly so, one Canadian Olympic athlete decried the pharaoh-like largesse, noting many athletes are “living through difficult financial times.”

In Calgary, proponents of an Olympic bid continue to argue that the Olympic movement has turned over a new leaf, yet, the evidence suggests otherwise. When the media asked how much the CEO of Calgary’s Olympic bid will receive, they were told her contract is confidential, even though she’ll be paid with tax dollars.

In fact, Calgary’s Olympic bid is structured so that it could spend $35 million without taxpayer watchdog groups, as well as the media, being able to investigate what’s going on.

Make no mistake; the Olympics are fun to watch on television, but we just can’t afford the large bill for the event. Our province is recovering from the recent recession, but we’re not out of the woods yet – trade friction with the U.S. is a real threat and lagging investor confidence is a significant problem.

Even if we could afford an Olympic bid, it can’t be ignored that the Olympic elite are cut from a different cloth than the rest of us.

Colin Craig is the Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation