Wanted by the IOC: A city to host the 2026 Winter Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — 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 …read more

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