So Calgary voted “no” to the 2026 Winter Olympics. Time to move on. But in moving on, the city needs to ask itself, “If not the Olympics, then what?”
We live in a contentious era of polarized debates and heated arguments. It’s a world of outrage, one marked by divisions that threaten to destroy friendships and ruin family dinners. This isn’t unique to Calgary. It’s a phenomenon everywhere.
It’s the CAVE syndrome: citizens against virtually everything.
In Canada, you see it with opposition to oil pipelines, carbon levies and residential developments in many cities. You see it in Europe with the rise of anti-EU movements and the Brexit vote. You see it in the United States with growing opposition towards immigration and global trade. They are literally building walls!
You see it in Ontario with its government opposed to 21st century curriculum in schools. You see it in the new government in Quebec with its anti-immigration tendencies.
And on November 13, you saw it with Calgary voting no to hosting the world in 2026. Everyone gets a say, but the opponents are the loudest.
To be clear, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose things — much of it comes down to personal opinion and conviction. For example, I’m opposed to teachers tattling on kids who attend a gay-straight alliance at school. I’m opposed to liberalized gun ownership. And I’m opposed to flat taxes. These are all things over which reasonable people may disagree.
With Calgary's 2026 Winter Games plebiscite, the “no” voters had legitimate misgivings about the costs of the games, the exact sources of tax revenue that would be required, and a general mistrust of the IOC and government ability to deliver. These are all understandable and reasonable objections.
But ultimately citizens must ask themselves: “What do we favour?” What legacy do we want to leave our children? How do we want to build our cities, shape our societies and influence our economies?
If the only answer is low taxes, that’s a fairly discouraging vision of the future. I like low taxes too. But as the proverb tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18).
What’s our vision for Calgary? So it’s not the 2026 Olympics and a legacy of sport and inspiring kids with their Olympic heros. Fair enough. But let’s also be clear: the “no” vote requires of us a new vision of where Calgary is going.
Let’s not focus on what we oppose. Let’s focus on what we favour, and build it together — whatever it may be.