Calgary's bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics is effectively over after the plebiscite defeat ©Twitter

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has conceded Calgary's defeat in a plebiscite on its bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games was "no surprise" as member Barry Maister warned the continuing trend of losing referendums was likely to continue.

Calgary's candidacy for the 2026 Games is effectively over after residents voted overwhelmingly against the bid during a plebiscite held earlier this week.

According to unofficial results published by the City of Calgary, 56.4 per cent voted no, with 43.6 in favour.

The official results are due to be revealed shortly.

The result of the plebiscite, which sees Calgary join a host of other cities in losing a public vote on an Olympic bid, is non-binding but the city's Mayor had admitted defeat would mark the end of the candidacy.

The City Council will vote to officially terminate the bid at its next meeting.

The defeat was a particularly painful one for the IOC, who had embarked on concerted campaign to persuade the Canadian city to stay in the dwindling race for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Just two candidates, Stockholm in Sweden and Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy, remain and doubts continue to linger over both bids.

"The IOC takes note of the decision regarding the candidature of Calgary for the Olympic Winter Games 2026," the IOC said in a statement. 

"It comes as no surprise following the political discussions and uncertainties right up until the last few days.

"We understand the disappointment of all those involved in the candidature, especially the Calgary 2026 Committee, the Canadian athletes, who have so enthusiastically been a driving force behind this project, as well as the representatives of the business community, the Paralympic Movement and the members of the First Nations who fought so hard for the Olympic project. 

"It is disappointing that the arguments about the sporting, social and long-term benefits of hosting the Olympic Games did not sway the vote."

New Zealand's Maister, who ceases to be an IOC member at the end of this year, told insidethegames it would be difficult to arrest the streak of referendum defeats.

The result saw Calgary become the ninth straight Olympic bid city to lose a referendum, with the last success for the IOC coming in Oslo in 2012, although the bid from the Norwegian capital eventually collapsed anyway.

The 2026 race began with seven candidates but that has been whittled down to two, largely because of referendum failures.

"In view of increasing global coordination of often uninformed public efforts to stop Games, it is likely this trend of bid rejections will continue to frustrate the IOC," said Maister.

"This in spite of significant efforts of IOC to put the facts in front of the organisers, local authorities, and more recently the public.

"These facts include genuine efforts to show how a Games can enhance/align with future city developments, and can be organised at a much lower cost than the public have been led to believe. 

"If these are not convincing, transparent propositions with demonstrable legacies for the city, then we will continue to struggle to get genuine bidders for all Games."

One of the major concerns raised by voters in the Calgary, hosts of the 1988 Winter Olympics, was over costs and a supposed lack of transparency from the Bid Committee in revealing key details.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has criticised the  Governments for their role in the demise of the bid ©Getty Images
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has criticised the Governments for their role in the demise of the bid ©Getty Images

The bid was previously dramatically saved by the smallest of margins by the City Council, which came after a last-minute agreement was reached between the Federal and Provincial Governments to consider a funding proposal that would provide their share of the public dollars needed to stage the event.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a supporter of the city hosting the Winter Olympics and Paralympics for the second time after it staged the 1988 Games, criticised the various Governments for their role in the bid's demise.

"For them to wait until two weeks before the plebiscite and not even have a cabinet discussion on it until then, as I understand it, I just don’t get it," Nenshi was quoted as saying by the Calgary Herald.

"If you’re going to make a $700-million commitment to something - that's a big meaningful commitment - you should own it. 

"And you should get out there and say ‘this is why we’re willing to put that money in and this is what’s important'.

"And whether you're the Provincial or Federal Government, you shouldn't leave your other partner to carry all the water on this."