Hosting the Olympic Games sounds like a great idea—millions of visitors bringing in billions in tourism dollars, major improvements to local infrastructure, and lots of new jobs. But is that really what happens?
The Alberta Institute in Canada, an Atlas Network partner, was alarmed by the city’s bid for the 2026 Olympics, and their campaign to illustrate the real financial consequences for the city helped voters defeat the bid at the polls.
Alberta Institute argued that the $5 billion budget, which would be split between the federal, provincial, and city governments, would be detrimental to the Canadian economy—especially in Calgary, which would have had to foot 15 percent of the cost of the bid (not to mention that local taxpayers would be left with the bill for going over budget.
Despite the threat of a massive bill and financial insolvency, more than 50 percent of Calgary residents supported the bid when Alberta Institute started their campaign. Along with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (also an Atlas Network partner) the Alberta Institute worked to build opposition to the plan through research, advocacy, public events, media appearances, and direct discussions with elected officials.
The initiative, dubbed the ‘No Campaign,’ successfully made the case to the Calgary government that it should hold a referendum as a condition to the province’s funding agreement for its portion of the costs. Alberta Institute ramped up their social media and online presence to educate Canadians on the financial impacts that this bid would have. Alberta Institute's calculations found that every Canadian would have had to pay an average of $70, every Albertan an average of $500, and every Calgarian an average of $1,200 if it were held on budget.
These hard numbers resonated with the Calgarian electorate, who voted to oppose the bid by a 13-point margin, putting an end to the possibility of a Calgary Olympics 2026.
The Alberta Institute received a Startup Grant from Atlas Network in 2018.