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Paralympic hockey players practicing on the rink

Credit: Connor Mah

The Economic Strategy for Calgary is our guide to be the city we envision through the fundamentals of prosperity: People, Place, Innovation, and Business Environment. The 2026 Games would inject billions into the economy and propel efforts to promote Calgary and achieve ambitious goals for business growth for more than a decade. Done right, they would revitalize our city in important and lasting ways.

If the “Olympic dream” is something noble to aspire to, then why shouldn’t the 2026 Paralympic Games be the impetus for the realization of the dream that, for example, Calgary be the most accessible city in Canada?

Or resolve our city’s long-standing challenge with affordable housing?

It would be “Olympic” in that Jamaican bobsled team or “Eddie the Eagle” kind of way – the improbable dream, overcome all odds, be an inspiring success – except the aspiration here is to better people’s lives in truly life-altering ways. We can do it with actions and by showcasing what is possible.

The fact the Paralympics in 2026 would be a bigger event than teh Olympics when Calgary hosted the Games in 1998 speaks to how far we’ve come.

David Legg, the Chair of Health and Physical Education at Mount Royal University, says people may be overlooking some of the opportunities that would come from the Paralympics.

“One is economic. People refer to it sometimes as handi-capitalism … this is an opportunity to showcase Calgary’s accessibility for potential tourism,” says Legg. “Why can’t Calgary and the Bow Valley become a destination of choice for persons, or their families, that have disabilities? This could be that place where they could come and know transit is going to be accessible, the airport is going to be universally accessible, the hotels, etc. etc.”

The impact goes well beyond economics, adds Legg, who is past president for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“If you think about children who have disabilities and wanting to achieve at the highest levels - there are no professional sports leagues for people with disabilities,” he says. “Hosting a Paralympic Games would allow us to take a giant leap forward.”

The Economic Strategy sees Calgary as being the most liveable city in Canada and the Games do provide a rare opportunity to shape our future. Given what the city accomplished two decades ago, just imagine what we could do for the city now.

Not every Olympic story will unfold within the specific parameters of Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games can be the catalyst for many organizations to accelerate their own plans to create the city they envision for future generations.

Before the economic strategy or the Games, ImagineCALGARY  established a 100-year vision for the city to be “a great place to make a living and great place to make a life.”

That vision is an overarching goal that dovetails with the ambitions for Calgary 2026. The Hosting Plan for the Games devotes entire sections to Cultural Enrichment, Inclusion and Accessibility, and Healthy and Active Living.

Place can be a challenging word to define.

At a minimum, it speaks to the quality of life and the Economist Intelligence Unit does rate Calgary the fourth most livable city in the world and tops in North America. As an Olympic city, we are not about to rest on our laurels.

The 1,800 residences for the Games, for example; would be converted to housing; with 80 per cent set aside for seniors and needy.

Hosting the Games will help us to achieve many long-standing goals for Calgary and will spark economic development that will provide an enduring post-Games legacy. The Economic Strategy endorses coming together as a community and also makes the point “we have a shared ownership in decision making and implementation initiatives.”

Everyone is encouraged to vote November 13.

Connor Mah image can be downloaded here


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