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What if Calgary says 'No' to the 2026 Olympics?

Canada defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani (18) tries to keep the flag aloft with a breath of fresh air to celebrate Canada's bronze-medal win following third period men's hockey bronze medal game action against Czech Republic at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Saturday, February 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Stephen Brunt was at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and remembers what they meant to a city pushing its way into the big leagues. He’s also covered every Olympics since then, and has seen what a millstone they’ve so often been to their host cities. The people of Calgary go to the polls today for a non-binding plebiscite on whether or not the city should move forward with its 2026 Olympic bid-and the vote really could go either way.

But why aren’t the Olympic Games as coveted a prize as they once were? What did hosting the Games mean to Calgary 30 years ago, and to Canadian Olympic results in the decades that followed? Can you really run the Olympics on the cheap? Should Canada even try to do that? And if Calgary says no, like so many other cities have already done, what does that do to the cache of winter sports around the world? Will we regret it when we sit down to watch the games in Sweden eight years from now?

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