IOC searches for host city of 2026 Win­ter Olympics

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Stephen Wade

Wanted: A city to host the 2026 Win­ter Olympics.

Get­ting bid­ders for the Olympics used to be easy. But no longer, and par­tic­u­larly for the Win­ter Games.

Six Euro­pean cities pulled out of of­fi­cial bids or pos­si­ble bids when the IOC sought can­di­dates a few years ago for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics. Cities balked over soar­ing costs, po­lit­i­cal un­rest or a lack of pub­lic sup­port as ex­pressed in ref­er­en­dums.

That left the IOC with only two pro­pos­als, both from au­thor­i­tar­ian govern­ments that backed cities de­void of win­ter sports tra­di­tions: Al­maty, Kaza­khstan, and Bei­jing, China.

Bei­jing nar­rowly won, but that set off alarms at IOC head­quar­ters in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

“The 2022 (bid­ding) cer­tainly high­lighted the prob­lems we were fac­ing in at­tract­ing cities, par­tic­u­larly win­ter cities,” IOC mem­ber and for­mer vice pres­i­dent John Coates said. “We had to do some­thing to ad­dress the cost of the games. In­creased costs have forced our hand.”

Coates said the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee is do­ing a “to­tal re­think” over the way the games are pre­sented to po­ten­tial bid­ders, and how they’re sold to the pub­lic.

The Switzer­land-based Olympic body is try­ing to re­brand, billing it­self as user friendly and at the ser­vice of host cities — and not the other way around. Of­fi­cials are talk­ing up flex­i­bil­ity and cost cut­ting, try­ing to change the IOC’s im­age of pres­sur­ing cities to build new sports venues that quickly be­come un­used “white ele­phants.”

Four cities have shown pre­lim­i­nary in­ter­est for 2026: Stock­holm, Swe­den; Cal­gary, Canada; Sion, Switzer­land; and Sap­poro, Ja­pan. Cal­gary and Sap­poro have hosted pre­vi­ous Win­ter Olympics, and Stock­holm held the Sum­mer Olympics in 1912. Swe­den has never held the Win­ter Olympics.

“We are say­ing, come around and di­a­logue with us,” said Christophe Dubi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Olympics.

Dubi said Nor­way, Aus­tria and the United States had also shown some in­ter­est — if not for 2026, then for 2030.

U.S. Olympic of­fi­cials say the na­tion won’t bid for the 2026 Games, with Los An­ge­les host­ing the Sum­mer Olympics in 2028. Salt Lake City, Den­ver and Reno, Ne­vada, are ex­pected to con­sider 2030 bids.

Richard Bri­sius, the CEO of Stock­holm’s ex­ploratory com­mit­tee, told The As­so­ci­ated Press he be­lieves the IOC’s changes are “real,” not a cos­metic makeover.

“They (IOC) are tak­ing big steps to change for the fu­ture.” Bri­sius said. “That means for a small, demo­cratic coun­try like Swe­den, we feel now we have a good chance at this.”

Euro­pean and North Amer­i­can can­di­dates prob­a­bly have an edge for 2026. Sap­poro held great Olympics in 1972, but putting the games in Ja­pan would come just af­ter Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics, and af­ter two win­ter games in Asia: Pyeongchang and Bei­jing.

Coates joked that let­ting cities talk­ing in­for­mally be­fore bid­ding for­mally with the IOC elim­i­nated “the schmooz­ing” and backscratch­ing that has gone on, driv­ing up costs for cities that even­tu­ally win the bid — and even for los­ing cities that don’t.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Spec­ta­tors ar­rive for the women’s 1,000 me­ters speed­skat­ing race at the Gangne­ung Oval at the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in Gangne­ung, South Korea, Wed­nes­day.

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