Emma May is the co-founder and brand and culture officer with Charles Real Estate in Calgary.
Explain what your role is in the Olympic 2026 bid for the city.
May: I’m a volunteer with Yes Calgary 2026. Essentially, I’m part of a group of citizens who like the idea of hosting the Olympics. I help co-ordinate other citizens who also want us to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We’re a grassroots organization, we sell pins, give out bumper stickers and try to raise awareness about the benefits of the Games. We encourage folks to read the bid for themselves and we help direct people to the information they need in order to make an informed decision.
Why did you get involved with this?
May: So many reasons. This city has been through a really tough time as late. That takes it toll on people. And on our energy levels and enthusiasm.
We need to rally around a project and chase a dream together again.
I was here in 1988. The city had been struggling very baldly in the early ’80s and people were crushed. So much changed for Calgary when we hosted the games in 1988. It lit the city on fire. It mobilized our population into a collective volunteer effort that lifted spirits across the city.
Nothing short of a natural disaster has done that since.
I think we underestimate the benefits this city saw coming out of ’88. Benefits that we still reap the rewards from today. Apart from the ski jumps, which we’re retiring, every single Olympic facility we built for ’88 is still used and enjoyed by Calgarians. That’s a legacy we can be very proud of.
What are the reasons Calgarians should vote ‘Yes’ in the upcoming plebiscite?
May: First of all voting YES is not a blank cheque. Voting ‘Yes’ means we continue to bid and we continue to grind out the best deal for this city. Yes is not yes at any cost.
Secondly, this is an opportunity to light a catalytic fire under this city in terms of getting infrastructure upgrades and getting our fieldhouse. We’re going to be incurring expenses to build a fieldhouse anyway; we will be investing in maintaining the investment we have already made in our ’88 facilities. The cost to do that is already pegged around $600 million. Why would we not leverage our dollars with outside funds, get our facilities upgraded and host the most renowned global sporting event?
And thirdly, the world is a scary place right now. But nothing brings people together globally like sport. Canada has hosted two incredibly successful Games that broke even and left great legacies for their cities.
We’re not different in our ability to deliver timely on budget projects than we were in ’88. We’re the perfect country and city to welcome the world. Imagine our streets buzzing with travellers from around the world marvelling at the beauty of our landscape, our welcoming culture and our can-do spirit.
We have a lot to be proud of here. And this is opportunity to sell ourselves on the global stage to the talent of new economies.
What will your group be doing to spread this message leading up to the vote?
May: We encourage people to host coffee parties and get out the vote. We want people who are voting ‘Yes’ to tell their friends and neighbours and to remind them to vote on Nov. 13. We’re telling stories of people who really want the Olympics on social media. We’re myth busting. And we’re speaking before groups and interested parties. It’s a real volunteer driven effort.
What do you think is the biggest stumbling block for this to go forward?
May: This is a complicated process. There are three levels of government involved. There are different organizations promoting different agendas and there’s a lot frustration around getting clarity about the bid and the bid process.
The best way to learn about the bid is to actually read it. Don’t go by what I tell you or what the members of the ‘No’ team say. Read the bid for yourself. Stay informed. Seek facts.
It’s natural to be concerned about the process and the cost. But frame those concerns around other large-scale projects. I think that saying ‘Yes’ is going to be something that lights a fire under this city. And we could use that.
– Mario Toneguzzi