Enough is enough! Its time to put the Olympic question to the taxpayers.

The timing couldn’t be better for the announcement that the ski jumps at WinSport will be torn down.

I am not celebrating the end of those jumps. I grew up in Banff and was a ski jumper until well into my late teens. It is a fantastic sport and unfortunately while jumps were common in Canada in the past, they have simply faded away over time. Part of the reason is that the very finite dollars that are out there for winter sport infrastructure get pissed away on political vanity projects rather than on good facilities that will actually serve the needs of athletes.

Let’s face it, the Calgary ski jumps are shitty and dangerous and they have been since day one. I am speaking from direct experience here. The area is heavily prone to crosswinds which swirl through the bowl making it terribly dangerous to use the bigger hills. The exposed site in low elevation mean that snow conditions were usually awful with icy and dangerous landings on artificial snow.

Due to the dangerous nature of these jumps, the 90 meter jump was only used for two years after the Olympics. For the last 28 years or so, the jump has served as a popular spot for small wedding receptions and has been one of the most expensive zip-line launches in the world. It has not been used for ski jumping.

Why was that jump built there then? Weren’t there experts who could have warned the Olympic committee of the time that the location was terrible for the jumps?

The answer is yes. The committee was told repeatedly not to put the jumps on that hill. As a jumper in the 80s, I remember keenly watching the discussions. The bottom line is that the committee didn’t want to see more venues going outside of the city limits so they ignored the experts and put the jumps into that terrible location. That led to the white elephant that now resides there which will be torn down soon.

Many look back at the 88 Olympics with rose colored glasses and forget how little of an actual long term legacy it left us. It was a heady time and was one hell of a party but it didn’t leave us much to hang on to afterwards.

The 90 meter jump only lasted a year. Apparently Nakiska is no longer up to snuff for Olympic events and of course the Saddledome has been considered obsolete for over a decade. Hell, even Olympic Plaza is falling apart with the bricks that donors bought fading to the point where their names can’t even be read.

There were still some good developments. The biathlon facility in Canmore is still popular and will remain so until the firearms are banned and the bobsled track while now obsolete, has been a valuable training site.

Let’s not exaggerate the value of the “legacy” of the Olympic games as we have been. What is left behind is really of very limited value and we are seeing that today.

Calgarians have been feeling increasingly railroaded by the Olympic cheerleaders on city council and in the administration since day one. As leaks continue and the story keeps changing, it becomes increasingly clear that the entire bid process has always been a stacked deck and it is quickly falling apart.

The twisting, turning from Olympic proponents has been getting frenzied as they see their multi-billion dollar vanity project at risk of vanishing due to a push for a plebiscite. They know damn well that a majority of taxpayers do not support this expenditure and are becoming enraged at the prospect that the great unwashed masses may get a direct say in this matter.

The bottom line is that some city councilors think that taxpayers are too stupid to be given the chance to vote on that issue. “How dare those peons try to choose how we will spend their money!”

Councilor Jyoti Gondek:

“In my opinion a Yes/No plebiscite is going to be meaningless in a project of this complexity.”

Translation: this is too complex for the dim electorate.

Councilor Shane Keating:

Plebiscites attempt to boil down complex issues into a simple “yes or no” question. If only life were that simple.

Actually Shane, in this case it is.

Councilor Gian Carlo-Carra:

It’s not fair to ask everyone to become an expert

Uh huh. Then why do we have general elections? I mean, in those circumstances we are asking people to inform themselves on all of the issues and expecting them to make a choice.

Why is a yes or no plebiscite suddenly too complex to entrust voters with?

Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

Somebody’s got to pay for it. It’s two million bucks and it’s not going to come out of the existing budget, so you’ve got to find the money.

Nenshi has no interest in letting this pet project go to a plebiscite. He is however more politically wily than his council compatriots and has instead suddenly decided to become a fiscal conservative.

When it is considered that Nenshi happily tossed millions towards the stacked “Olympic bid exploration committee” and now another $2.5 million towards a “bid corporation”, his sudden reticence to spend less than two million to let taxpayers decide has the distinct scent of bullshit about it.

The question is a simple yes or no. Do taxpayers want Calgary to host the 2026 Olympic games or not?

There is no better way to have broad public engagement on a straightforward issue than a plebiscite campaign.

Just think, proponents and opponents will have time to put their cases forward and at the end of the campaign the stakeholders will make their decision. How could the public not be informed after such a campaign? Would there not be plenty of studies, stats and information presented over that time? Oh yeah, some think the public are too stupid to wade through all that. I disagree.

Why is there supposedly not enough information in anyway?

Just what the hell has that gold plated committee been doing?

The committee created a 5,700 page report. How much more damned study do we need?

The bottom line is that those opposed to a plebiscite on an Olympic bid know damned well that the tired and taxed electorate will probably reject the bid.

That’s democracy. Learn to make a better case for your pet project or drop it.

In the end the question isn’t whether Calgary should host the 2026 Olympic games or not. The question is whether Calgary city council and administration really actually want to represent the wishes of taxpayers or not. I fear I know the answer.

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