2026 Winter Olympics in Whistler? It could happen thanks to Calgary

Parents, coaches say sport will 'cease to exist' when Calgary ski jumps close

Could a small piece of the 2026 Calgary Winter Olympics wind up in Whistler? 

It's a real possibility, assuming the Alberta city decides to go ahead with bidding on the Games.  

Details in a report by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee outline how millions of dollars could be saved by putting the ski jumping and nordic combined events at the Whistler Olympic Park instead of at Calgary's antiquated WinSport facility.

According to estimates, upgrading WinSport to modern standards would cost almost $71 million dollars compared to the $5 million needed to upgrade the Whistler facility.

"Certainly, if Calgary approaches us and asks us whether we are interested, I would say we are," said Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhem-Morden. "We'd of course have to do our due diligence and speak to the community to see if they are interested."

Whistler Olympic Park hosted both sports at the 2010 Olympics. Calgary's ski jumps date back to the 1988 Olympics and are in a location where wind is often a problem. The largest of the jumps has been out of commission for over two decades.

Besides the $5 million for upgrades at Whistler, the report cites another $30 million for "operational and ancillary costs."

It also notes that "other government services and related expenditures for intergovernmental co-ordination have not been contemplated at this time." 

Moving a slice of the Olympics 1,000 kilometres from Calgary to Whistler may be an attractive option for organizers — especially considering the two sports in question aren't exactly huge spectator draws — but not everyone is keen on the idea.

CBC ski jumping analyst and former Olympian Rob Keith worries that if the venue in Calgary doesn't get a facelift, the sport will die off in Canada. 

"The Calgary program is the centre of ski jumping in Canada and it would evaporate," Keith said. "Whistler just doesn't have the population base [to support it]. In Calgary, the facility is centrally located, it's visible and there's a big local population."

The chairman of Ski Jumping Canada says the report doesn't paint a full picture of the money needed to support Whistler's inclusion in the bid. 

"The numbers being thrown around are solely build costs," he said. "You'd have to put in an additional athletes' village... and dining hall. And security is a huge cost — they'd have to create a whole unique security bubble."

The report briefly discusses a third option of building a brand new ski jump facility at the Canmore Nordic Centre at an estimated cost of $100 million.

The committee does not make a recommendation on the three options, concluding that "additional due diligence is required."

On Tuesday, Calgary city council voted to move forward with a potential 2026 Olympic bid.