Calgary wants to be a central city as Canada loses international sport to virus

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CALGARY – Canada’s status as an international winter sports host takes a beating during the COVID-19 pandemic.The cancellations that began in March when the novel coronavirus virus shut down the sport have resumed and Canada has lost more World Cups and World Championships in 2020 and 2021.

However, Calgary is trying to plug the drain.

With an eye on Edmonton’s success as an NHL hub city, Tourism Calgary and WinSport at Canada Olympic Park want the city to be an international hub for a sport they aren’t ready to reveal.

“We are in discussions about some important bubbles that could potentially arrive in Calgary,” Carson Ackroyd, senior vice president of sales for Tourism Calgary, told The Canadian Press.

“With a few of our key facilities, one of which obviously being WinSport, where do we have a natural advantage from a facility standpoint where the bubbling could attract a number of events to one location? ”

The International Skating Union which governs speed skating sees the Netherlands as a potential hub for its long track season.

The World Skiing Governing Body (FIS) is compressing several alpine ski races in Europe this season and completely skipping North American stops.

The 2021 Canadian Snowboard and Freestyle World Cups remain on the FIS calendar for the time being.

Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park – a legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics – is slated to host the Mogul World Cup in January, followed by freestyle skiing and snowboarding in February.

Several acres of land in a city served by an international airport, plus decades of experience as a host, make Calgary a potential candidate for international federations looking for hubs to end a season.

WinSport Managing Director Barry Heck doesn’t limit the possibilities to outdoor snow sports.

With four NHL-sized arenas, 15 locker rooms, convention space and a commercial kitchen, Heck says WinSport can pivot to different types of sporting events, including indoor competition.

“There are a lot of things we can do here,” Heck said. “It’s all here and it’s easily contained. ”

Peter Judge, general manager of Freestyle Canada, says a central city is one option among many that the FIS could choose to host a freestyle ski season.

“It’s just about trying to sum up what’s possible as the scenarios change from minute to minute. We will do our best to organize events in Canada, ”said the judge. “They are important to us.

“We have partners who have always supported us in organizing events in Canada. We are optimistic about how we will find a way to do something in Canada and to keep our athletes and the general public safe.

The Alpine Skiing World Cup in Lake Louise, Alberta, speed skating in Calgary, short track speed skating in Quebec, a para-hockey tournament in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and the world championship 2021 Luge Championships in Whistler, BC, recently joined the list of international competitions with Canada stranded because of the virus.

The World Women’s Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia, the World Women’s Curling Championships in Prince George, British Columbia, the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, and the World Cup Cross Country Skiing in Quebec City and Canmore, Alta. Were canceled in March when the first wave of COVID-19 hit North America.

From the loss of dollars spent during and around events, to young Canadian athletes missing out on the chance to compete in their first World Cup because the host team gets additional entries, there are an impact on local economies and the sports system.

The 2013 World Luge Championships in Whistler, BC generated $ 1.1 million in spending for visitors, participants and event planners while generating over half a million dollars in taxes for three levels of government, according to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

Hotels, restaurants, transportation providers and retailers take advantage of the international teams, their coaches and support staff, as well as competition officials, who arrive a few days before the event to train and s ‘adapt to the local time zone.

“There is a concentrated and significant effort to try to make this activity known to the city in order to support our tourism economy and the recovery of the province in general,” said Ackroyd.

“The sporting event piece is certainly one of the pieces that will return to the economy of visitors from around the world, potentially before others. ”

The host country can often field a larger team in a World Cup.

Canada signed up to six men in the descent of Lake Louise, for example, but did not get as many places elsewhere.

“I think every time you get the chance to race against the best in the world it helps in athlete development,” said Anne Merklinger, Managing Director of Own The Podium.

“Sports are now examining what are the strategies to fill this gap? It will undoubtedly be different if we cannot host this World Cup where we could have had “X” number of places. “



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