Reflecting on the Graduate College’s recent Olympic/Paralympic Panel

Reflecting on the Graduate College’s recent Olympic/Paralympic Panel

Simon Barrick
PhD candidate in Kinesology
University of Calgary

So, what factors go into deciding whether to bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Turns out a great many!

That was one of the key takeaways from Tuesday night’s panel: Reimagining Winter Olympic and Paralympic bids for the 21st Century. This panel was the second installment in the Graduate College Speaker Series (GCSS); an initiative which aims to engage the university and local community in important local, national, and international conversations. The GCSS is jointly funded by the Graduate College and the Graduate Students’ Association Quality Money program.

One of the great benefits of belonging to the Graduate College is that many of our events are member driven. This is true of the GCSS. Back in December, I approached Dr. Thompson (Interim College Head) and expressed interest in turning one of my research and personal passions – the Olympics and Paralympics – into a GCSS event. Namely, I wanted to create a space for members of the public to learn about Olympic and Paralympic bids from various experts and share their perspectives on Calgary’s prospective 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid.

The Graduate College is quite fortunate to be located in such an entrepreneurial and diverse city as Calgary. A further advantage is the large pool of sport experts living in our backyard from municipal governance, elite and grassroots sport, and academic backgrounds. Thus, it was unsurprising we were able to amass such an outstanding panel of experts for this event including:

Erica Wiebe (Olympic Gold Medallist – 2016 Rio Summer Olympics)


Dr. Roger Jackson (Professor Emeritus – University of Calgary – Faculty of Kinesiology)


Druh Farrell (City of Calgary Councillor – Ward 7)


Dr. David Legg (Professor – Mount Royal University)


Barry Heck (President & CEO – WinSport)

Now, fast forward to the evening of Tuesday, March 6th – the night of the event. Approximately 100 members of the local community turned out for what (unsurprisingly) turned out to be an evening of collegial, passionate dialogue about the potential benefits and drawbacks of Calgary hosting the Olympics and Paralympics.

While many great questions, ideas, and opinions were shared throughout the event, I want to highlight three main points that I believe are especially poignant:

1) Bidding on and hosting mega-sport events like the Olympics and Paralympics are complex undertakings for local communities in our contemporary society. The panelists did an excellent job outlining many factors (e.g., building infrastructure and security) that drive up event costs and create organisational challenges.

2) If Calgary is to bid for the 2026 Games, now is the time to ask tough questions about our community and the feasibility of hosting the Olympics and Paralympics. Where will the money to pay for the Games come from? What legacies will be left for Calgary, Alberta, and Canada? How do the Olympic and Paralympic Games fit into Calgary’s master plan? These questions were all raised throughout the panel and promise to be key discussion points as we approach a final decision on a Calgary bid.

3) Calgary is uniquely positioned to deliver world-class Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have the venues (legacies from the 1988 Games) and the volunteer base to pull off an event of this size. Yet, as was reiterated throughout the evening, Calgary should only go forward with a bid if it makes sense for the current and future needs of the city, province, and nation.

This last point promises to be an increasingly contentious one as debate heats up at City Hall and throughout the living rooms and social media feeds of Calgarians and beyond.

In closing, I want to thank the many people within the Graduate College who helped make this panel an overwhelming success. We also received tremendous support from various academic units across campus for which I am personally grateful.

And lastly, thank you to everyone who attended last week’s panel. Bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games promises to be a topic of contentious public debate moving forward. I hope that this panel has illustrated the essential role wide-spread public dialogue must play as the process continues to unfold.

Posted on: April 4, 2018susanne

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