List of 46 consultants working on Calgary Olympic bid raises questions

The Olympic displays at Winsport in Calgary on Wednesday September 12, 2018. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

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The International Olympic Committee’s listing of nearly 50 consultants connected to Calgary’s Olympic bid is raising questions around cost and potential conflict of interest if the Winter Games do come to the city in 2026.

According to names made public on the IOC website, Calgary 2026 called on the services of as many as 46 consultants from a variety of locations around the world including Brazil, the United States, Vancouver and Calgary.

The lengthy list compares to only 10 consultants attached to Sweden’s bid for 2026, and zero listed for Italy’s bid.

Ruth Anne Beck, a spokeswoman for Calgary 2026 bid corporation, explained that in June of this year, several temporary contractors were hired to work on Calgary’s bid but most for only a short time.

“This prudent approach was chosen to not spend money to hire permanent employees for a process that, until the IOC announces the Game host in June 2019, is temporary in nature,” she said.

“A few international contractors with recent Games experience were hired to lend their expertise. For example, an expert in venues was brought in from the U.S. to ensure the lowest operational cost for the Calgary’s bid. Another expert from Brazil worked remotely for three days because that individual was an expert in Games technology.”

While 46 consultants are registered on the IOC website, she added, the work they contributed towards the bid lasted on average only five days. The list of consultants also captures any person who worked on the bid in the last two years, even pre-dating the bid corporation’s formation.

Beck, however, would not detail the total amount of money spent on consultants alone, providing only a general number for bid spending. 

“In 2016, $30 million was set aside to prepare and present a bid to the IOC — a cost that is shared by the federal, provincial and municipal governments. To date, approximately $10 million has been spent.”

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Calgary city councillor for ward 11 Jeromy Farkas listens during a council session on Monday June 25, 2018. Gavin Young/Postmedia

But Coun. Jeromy Farkas said the long list of consultants raises several questions around spending and conflicts of interest.

“It’s good that those who are working on the bid are disclosing that they are, they’re putting themselves out there. But that said, I’d like to know how potential conflict of interest may be handled.”

If Calgary wins the bid, will some of the construction or development companies who are consulting, for instance, be the same ones chosen to build affordable housing or upgrade facilities, Farkas asked.

“Is that right? And how will that be handled?”

Consultants listed include names beside companies like Kondwani Bwanali of the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. and Lizette Parsons Bell with Umbrella Strategies, a communications firm based in Vancouver.

But most consultants are simply names listed beside a country, with no company name listed like Amber Wallbeck from the U.S. and Elly Resende from Brazil.

Coun. Druh Farrell added that while a long list does suggest Calgary 2026 has done everything possible to ensure a strong bid, she says the selection of so many international and Vancouver experts does not allow for a grassroots approach.

“We haven’t done any local consultation. This has been a top-down vision that is not developed by Calgarians.

“It doesn’t mean our bid is not good, it’s very good. It’s just not made in Calgary. In 1988 it really was. The bid, the ideas, all came from the citizenry.”

But Coun. Shane Keating argued a long list of consultants only means that Calgary 2026 will have a strong bid that draws on a wide range of expertise.

“It depends what the contracts are and what they’re being asked to do. But it’s quite possible many of these are very small contracts, and we are simply doing our due diligence.”

eferguson@postmedia.com