Sprawlcast Ep 2: Dodging the Question

Why’d it take so long for city council to look the Olympic question in the face?

In episode 2 of Sprawlcast, we speak with Councillor Jyoti Gondek about how and why city council’s Olympic pursuits have gone sideways. “We need to own it,” Gondek said. “We need to say that we have managed this ineffectively.”

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Nearly two years have passed since Calgary city council first started pursuing the 2026 Winter Olympics, and to date council members have skirted the big question.

Should Calgary bid?

When council approved $5M for a bid exploration committee in June 2016 (its website URL was literally www.shouldcalgarybid.com), Mayor Naheed Nenshi was openly enthusiastic.

“From almost the moment that I was elected mayor… citizens have been coming to me saying, it’s time. It’s time in the worldwide Olympic movement, it’s time in the sport history of this city, and it’s time in the cultural history of this city for us to bid for another Olympic Games.”— Mayor Naheed Nenshi, June 2016

He’s since muted his enthusiasm in an effort to be more neutral.

Other councillors and city admin have likewise made claims of neutrality on the question of whether to bid, even as they’ve worked to sell other levels of government on funding a $30M bid corporation.

In the absence of a clear answer, confusion, frustration and mistrust have filled the void. With council slated to vote Monday, April 16, on whether or not to continue pursuing the Olympics, Nenshi has acknowledged that the exploration is “a bit in the ditch.”

Even those who support Calgary’s Olympic pursuits have acknowledged that the effort has been hampered by poor communications and public engagement.

“I think this is one place, in communications on this file, where we as a council, as administration, we’ve really failed,” said councillor George Chahal at city council March 20.

For this episode of Sprawlcast, we retraced council’s steps and spoke with Councillor Jyoti Gondek about where things have gone off the rails—and how to get them back on track.

In addition to the interview with Gondek, this episode includes clips from Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Councillor Ray Jones, Councillor Druh Farrell, Councillor Jeff Davison, Councillor Sean Chu and former councillor Richard Pootmans. A clip from Rick Hanson, who chaired the bid exploration committee, is also included.