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Calgarians reject 2026 Olympic bid in citywide plebiscite

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CALGARY—It has had many close calls and near misses, but Calgary’s Olympic bid faces an all-but-certain end after Tuesday’s vote.

A majority 56.4 per cent of voters cast their ballots against continuing with a bid for the 2026 Winter Games in Calgary’s plebiscite in results announced a little before 10 p.m, with more than 300,000 votes counted.

Tears follow the Tuesday night announcement that Calgarians voted 56.4 per cent against the city making a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Tears follow the Tuesday night announcement that Calgarians voted 56.4 per cent against the city making a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.  (Christina Ryan / StarMetro Calgary)

Because the funds the provincial and federal governments offered for the cost of hosting are conditional on a “yes” in the mandated plebiscite, the bid almost certainly won’t go on from here. City council still must make the move to stop work on the bid official.

The decision follows a majority of Calgary city councillors voting in favour of stopping the bid process two weeks ago, with Ward 8 Councillor and Olympic assessment committee chair Evan Woolley submitting a series of recommendations that included cancelling the plebiscite. That move ultimately failed because it didn’t clear the higher required threshold of 10 council votes.

Woolley said he doesn’t feel that council presented a funding deal that was good enough or timely enough for Calgarians to have enough information to make a decision.

“The recommendations will look very, very similar to the ones I moved two weeks ago,” he said.

“There’s a number of administrative things we have to do, but the motion will be quite simple, and then there will be work behind the scenes.”

Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas described the vote as a “come-from-behind victory” for the “no” side.

“It’s been a real David versus Goliath on steroids when you think of the resources available to promote the ‘yes’ side of the bid,” he said.

Yes Calgary blanketed the city with campaign materials over the last week, including lawn signs, advertisements and robocalls, some featuring Mayor Naheed Nenshi describing the reasons he is a “yes” vote.

Meanwhile, the No Calgary Olympics campaign held a rally at Olympic Plaza on Saturday urging Calgarians to vote against the bid, but they had comparably fewer volunteers and resources to work with.

No Calgary Olympics organizer Erin Waite said she views the results as a sign that Calgarians thought seriously about the potential risks that come with hosting the Games.

“A ‘no’ vote says that they saw the excitement of hosting the Olympic Games and the fun that that event could drive, but weighed that against all the other factors that are important to consider,” she said.

The Calgary Olympic Bid Corp. estimates the cost of hosting the Games in Calgary at $5.1 billion, with the city, province and federal government contributing $2.875 billion.

That budget, and a subsequent cost-sharing proposal, came after BidCo originally set the cost of hosting at $5.2 billion, with $3 billion coming from public funds — but after a negotiating deadlock and Woolley’s move to cancel the plebiscite, a late-night funding proposal revived the bid process.

According to a funding proposal currently on the table, Calgary would pay $370 million in cash, plus an additional $20 million to purchase an insurance policy. The provincial government has committed $700 million, and Ottawa will pay about $1.4 billion if Calgary’s hosting bid succeeds.

Ward 4 Councillor Sean Chu, who has been a vocal opponent of the Olympic bid, welcomed the plebiscite results.

“Congratulations, Calgarians. Your common sense prevailed,” he said.

Chu said he continues to believe that hosting is bad for the city’s finances.

“It’s like your household: you already have the debt of your mortgage. And (on the ‘yes’ side), it’s like, ‘Let’s go buy a Ferrari.’

“Is this how you run your finances? I don’t think so.”

Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who lent his voice to the “yes” campaign in the days leading up to the vote, said he thinks the city still needs to consider how to effectively present itself to the world.

“If we’re not using the Olympic Games to do that, we’re going to have to do that anyway. The conversation becomes: how do we do that in a meaningful way?” he said.

He added that challenges remain without the Olympic bid, including figuring out a way to boost the stock of affordable housing in Calgary and upgrading the sport venues left from the 1988 Games — two benefits that BidCo said would come from hosting in 2026.

Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating said he also worries about what the plan is to upgrade the city’s sport infrastructure without the Olympics.

“All of the renovations to McMahon Stadium, BMO Centre, Olympic Oval, Canada Olympic Park, none of that will happen,” he said.

The 2026 draft hosting plan also proposed to build a new mid-sized arena and field house for Calgary. The latter project has been a city infrastructure priority for years, but has remained unfunded.

“The field house — which is an absolute shame we don’t have one yet — will still have to be funded at some point in time,” Keating said.

Two other bids are currently in the running for the 2026 Games: Stockholm, Sweden and a joint bid from the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina. The deadline for submitting bid books to the International Olympic Committee is in January 2019, and the final host city decision is slated for June.

Madeline Smith is a reporter/photographer with StarMetro Calgary. Follow her on Twitter: @meksmith

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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