(ATR) The speculative field of candidates to host the 2026 Winter Olympics will be narrowed to only the serious bidders in 2017.
Switzerland at this stage is the only country to be "all in" for a 2026 bid. Swiss Olympic set up a national selection process in March with five potential projects signing up. Two regional candidates - "Graubünden und Partner 2026" (Eastern Switzerland) and "Sion 2026. The Games in The Heart of Switzerland" (Western Switzerland) - are still in the running, having submitted their project descriptions to Swiss Olympic by a December 15 deadline.
The two bids will now be studied in more depth, with the Swiss Olympic executive council scheduled to vote on March 7 for one of the projects, should they decide a bid is feasible. This decision will then have to be ratified by the Sport Parliament at an extraordinary meeting scheduled for April 11.
It’s a good possibility that a Swiss bid will make it past an expected public referendum, something that recent efforts have failed to do. Besides learning from past failures, Swiss Olympic president Jörg Schild tells Around the Rings the introduction of the cost-cutting measures in Agenda 2020 is another reason for optimism.
"Basically, the financial frame that we have imposed to our domestic bidders, both for bidding and organizing, is half the cost of previous Swiss projects," says Schild. "This is very important in the lead up to probable referendums.
"In addition to the financial issues, we have recently received a strong formal message of support from our Federal Government and this allows us to work with more confidence at every level. All of these aspects make us reasonably confident for future referendums. But there is still a lot of work ahead."
The government of Sapporo, Japan, which hosted the 1972 Games. presented the Japanese Olympic Committee with a plan in November projecting a cost of between $4.1 and $4.3 billion for an Olympics and Paralympics bid.
The Kyodo News Agency reports it is up to the JOC to decide whether to put forward a bid. The odds seem long for a third straight Asian city hosting the Winter Games, following PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022.
Two other former Winter Games hosts – Innsbruck, Austria and Calgary, Canada - are each the subject of a feasibility study to determine if a bid is worth it.
Austrian Olympic Committee president Karl Stoss and Innsbruck mayor Christine Oppitz-Plörer have been optimistic in public statements about a possible bid. Innsbruck has hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Games and the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The feasibility study is expected to be completed in May.
Calgary, the 1988 host, formed a Bid Exploration Committee that will provide an interim report in January and a final report in July. The Calgary City Council will then decide whether a bid is viable.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is on the record as being skeptical that a bid will make financial sense. "The numbers have to be bullet-proof,"he says.
Should the initial hurdle be cleared, Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith could prove a key player moving forward. Smith, who was elected COC president in 2015, became the third Canadian IOC member in August, joining six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser and longtime member Dick Pound.
A few other cities could still make a late run for the bid. Timo Ritakallio, the new chair of the Finnish Olympic Committee, has floated the idea of Finland submitting a joint bid with either Norway or Sweden, according to the Helsinki Times.
Stockholm has yet to decide on whether to launch a bid. The Swedish capital dropped out of the race for the 2022 Winter Games in January 2014 after the city’s ruling Moderate party failed to back bid plans.
There has also been speculation that the United States would look to bid for 2026 should Los Angeles fail to beat out Budapest and Paris for the right to host the 2024 Summer Games.
Formal 2026 bidding applications are not due with the IOC until after the 2024 host city is chosen in September. The final IOC decision will be made in 2019.
Written by Gerard Farek
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