TORONTO — Two-time Olympian and former International Olympic Committee member Paul Henderson would like to see the IOC follow its own lead when it comes to the selection of host cities for the Games.
The IOC recently broke from tradition by transforming the bid process for the Summer Games by declaring two hosts — Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028 — at the same time. Speaking on the heels of a plebiscite that essentially scuttled Calgary's bid plans for 2026, Henderson would like to see winter host announcements handled in a similar fashion.
"I believe what they should do now is give the Winter Games for 2026 to a winter city in Europe and tell Calgary you're going to get the 2030 Games with no bid," Henderson said.
Stockholm and a joint Italian bid from Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo remain in the mix for 2026. The IOC will accept bids in January and the election of the host city is set for June.
Henderson, 83, has been an Olympic regular over his long sporting career. The Toronto native first competed at the Games in 1964 at Tokyo, was an IOC member from 2000-04, served as a longtime technical delegate for sailing and has held several international board positions and federation executive roles.
Henderson said the 1988 Calgary Games were "terrific," thanks in part to the great leadership in place at the time.
"In my opinion, it was the best-run Olympic Games ever," he said. "Although I thought Lillehammer (1994) and Vancouver (2010) were outstanding too."
The venues from the '88 Games formed the foundation of a 2026 bid, but 56.4 per cent of Calgarians cast a dissenting vote in a non-binding plebiscite Tuesday.
"As a Canadian, it's a huge opportunity that's been missed," said Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger. "Sport matters so much to me as a Canadian and my role as Own The Podium because of its ability to inspire and unite and motivate Canadians."
A cost-sharing agreement between the three levels of government was supposed to be ready in August but wasn't clear until late October, hampering Calgary 2026 efforts. Three other cities withdrew from the 2026 race earlier this year — Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland and Graz, Austria — and Turkey's Erzurum was eliminated last month by the IOC.
"The bottom line is that the International Olympic Committee needs Calgary more than Calgary needs the International Olympic Committee," Henderson said. "So you stand up (for 2030)."
Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith has said she remained hopeful that Canada will one day host another Winter Games. Meanwhile, 2026 board chair Scott Hutcheson said he thinks Calgary needs time to decompress before considering future Olympic plans.
Pyeongchang, South Korea hosted the Winter Games this year, the first of three straight Asian hosts. The Summer Games return to Tokyo in 2020 and Beijing will host the Winter Games in 2022.
"The IOC needs Europe and the IOC needs North America again," Henderson said. "They need Calgary. And so Calgary should say, 'OK we're back in it. But on our terms.'"
With files from Canadian Press sports reporter Donna Spencer and The Associated Press.
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