February 18th, 2019

Better ways to spend money than Olympics

By Schnarr, J.W. on September 14, 2018.

Economist and former MLA Tom Sindlinger holds a deck of cards to be used as ballots for a poll of the audience during a talk on Calgarys potential Olympic bid at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

J.W. Schnarr

Lethbridge Herald


An Olympic event in Calgary would be an Olympic-level mistake and cost Lethbridge taxpayers at least $1,000 each, a former MLA and economist told a crowd at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs on Thursday.

“I’m in favour of the Olympic spirit, but I’m concerned about Olympic-sized costs,” former Calgary-Buffalo PC MLA Tom Sindlinger said.

Sindlinger is also an economist with a focus on marketing natural resources and transportation, and governance. He is a member of the Lethbridge and Alberta Sports Halls of Fame for his time as a basketball player.

“I do not like the Olympic-sized cost we’d be spending on the Olympics,” he said.

“There are better ways to use the money than spending it on a two-week party.”

It is estimated the bidding cost of the 2026 Olympic Winter Games will be in the area if $30 million, and that the expenses tied to hosting the Games could top more than $5 billion. Some estimates have gone as high as $8 billion, however. Hosting the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary cost $1 billion and turned a profit.

“For you in Lethbridge, it means $1,000,” Sindlinger said. “And that is the minimum. From there it’s just going to go up.”

Earlier this week, Calgary City Council voted to hold a plebiscite on Nov. 13 in regards to a possible Olympic bid. Sindlinger said that vote should be something all Albertans take part in – and they should be voting no.

“Albertans should be thinking about alternate things you can do with that money,” he said. “The money you spend on the Olympics you could build an arena in every one of the 400 communities in Calgary. Plus, buy an NHL arena, with enough money left over to buy the Flames.

“On the other hand, you could buy 333 schools.”

There are a number of infrastructure issues with Calgary as a host city which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Those upgrades would not necessarily have a direct benefit to Calgarians, according to Sindlinger.

“The question I always ask is ‘how many times has a person in Calgary used the ski jump since 1998?’ And if they don’t know the answer, I’ll ask ‘how many times has someone from Calgary used the luge run?’

“The answer is that if you can find anyone, they’re likely from Jamaica. They don’t live in Calgary.”

Additionally, Sindlinger floated the idea that a bid for the Olympics is little more than an attempt to get a new arena built for the Calgary Flames – claiming the Saddledome was one of the main reasons the ’88 Olympics occurred in Calgary.

“I’m old enough to say deja vu all over again,” he said. “This is the same thing that happened in 1988.”

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