2026 Bidding Race To Gain Clarity By Summer

(ATR) Seven countries are interested in hosting the 2026 Olympics in a process the IOC says is a break from the past.

(ATR) It’s a "different generation" of Olympic bids says IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi, as seven countries express written interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The 2026 bidding cycle is the first under the IOC’s "New Norm" overhaul of the process. The latest deadline allowed for National Olympic Committees to express "interest" in bidding. Now, the IOC’s technical experts will analyze each project. The IOC Executive Board will then review the findings and make a decision about which cities go to the candidature phase in October.

The IOC confirmed today Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Graz, Austria; Milan/Turin/Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Stockholm, Sweden all entered the dialogue phase.

"Now when it comes to the [bids], what we need to make sure is that we bring [each] exactly to the same level to the executive board in October," Dubi said of the process on a conference call. "To bring a level playing field so a judgment can be made by the executive board and the Session in October, this is the work that has to be performed in the next months."

The seven bids come from three different continents and in various different stages. Some bids, such as Sion, have been fleshed out before it was presented to the IOC, while others such as Calgary are still going through the process to secure government support. Other bids from Italy, Turkey and Austria signaled their intention for more dialogue just before the March 31 deadline.

Italy’s NOC (CONI) submitted three separate interested cities in hosting the 2026 Games. Dubi said that the IOC will now work with CONI to narrow down the field and, ideally, present one bid to the executive board. There may be no bid from Italy if it does not get the support of the country's national government. A coalition is needed and has yet to be formed following last month’s elections.

Dubi says the IOC is "immensely satisfied" with the range and scope of bids presented in the March deadline. He is unconcerned that the 2026 process has begun with a similar number of cities to the failed 2022 process, because of the changes made to the process. Now, the cities are not confirmed as full candidate cities, but rather interested parties, in which the IOC works to maximize the "value proposition" of each bid.

"We have turned the page. We have made a number of evolutions in the past in the way to bid and organize and plan for legacy," Dubi said. "This is a different generation of bidding and games organization. The page has been turned we look at it from a fresh standpoint."

Past failed bids will not have any impact on the viability of the current crop of interested countries, Dubi said. The comment was made in response to questions regarding the high profile withdrawals of bids for 2020 and 2024 by Rome and the fact that CONI has nominated three potential cities to explore a 2026 bid.

Dubi said that the timeline for the ongoing discussion phase will only start to get clarity in the next few months. Thus, he said, it is too early to speculate about how many cities could be voted on at the 2019 IOC Session, and the number of cities that could be granted candidature status.

"You have to let us work at administration level with the seven interested NOCs and we’ll see better in the summer the different value propositions and at that point in time," Dubi said. "Until then its hard work with the seven in order to understand the projects and integrate the "New Norm" and optimize the projects."

Another uncertainty regarding some of the interested bids is the prospect of some facing a referendum. Currently, Sion is the only city with a referendum scheduled. Voters in the canton of Valais will go to the polls on June 10. There is also a possibility of a second national referendum on the Swiss bid.

The funding to keep a Calgary bid alive has been made conditional to holding a plebiscite. In Austria, an Innsbruck bid for 2026 was torpedoed by a referendum, but it is unclear if Graz will face a similar vote.

Dubi said that the IOC does not "see a problem with" any referendum for an Olympic bid and welcomes votes from citizens on potential projects. However, he says there could never be a requirement for a referendum in the bid process, as the IOC must respect each country’s political traditions and laws.

There also will not be an opening of the 2030 bid process anytime soon, Dubi says, and any talk of a double allocation is pure speculation. However, Dubi said that the IOC welcomes any city or NOC making contact with the IOC to begin discussions about hosting the 2030 Games. So far, only the United States Olympic Committee has expressed written interest in bidding for the 2030 Olympics, and the IOC is expected to begin contacting three cities interested in hosting soon.

"What was really interesting in PyeongChang we had a number of interested parties, a number of NOCs who obviously were very excited by the prospect of the 'New Norm' and all the opportunities in this process," Dubi said. "I won’t go into specifics outside of U.S. What I can definitely tell you is there is a tremendous interest for 2030 and beyond.

"We will talk with anyone."

Written by Aaron Bauer

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