(ATR) A 2026 Winter Olympics bid by Graz is "absolutely feasible" according to a study released on Thursday.
The budget to organize the Winter Games is put at €1.137 billion ($1.317 billion) and would require no public money. However, a public subsidy of €53 million ($61.4 million) could be used in a worst case scenario to cover cost overruns that exhaust a reserve of €100 million ($115.8 million).
The study considered the subsidy "reasonable", given the estimated additional tax revenue of €665 million that would be raised by Graz and its partner regions hosting in 2026.
However, the federal Austrian government would also use public funds to pay for the cost of security but that is considered separate from the operations cost of the Games.
"From the point of view of the Austrian Olympic Committee, we can only say positive things about the study," ÖOC Secretary General Peter Mennel said in a statement.
"Most important finding: There will be no major losses, because no large investments are required. Even if you start from the worst case in all areas, the risk is manageable. In contrast, there are many positive factors and opportunities for the region. Graz, Styria and Austria would benefit from Olympic Games sustainably - for decades to come. Now it is up to the politicians to rate the study accordingly."
The study, which was turned over to the Austrian government on Thursday, will also be released to the public.
The more than 100 page feasibility study took almost three months to complete, and included work by institutions such as Campus 02, Joanneum Research and the Graz University of Technology as well as experts in sports and event management.
One of the main points from the study is the need to not limit such a major project to just the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics but to also ensure long-term regional development.
"Graz could thus position itself on the world map in the long term and get a priceless advertising value. We could create a basis especially for our young generation, from which they could profit over several decades," said Markus Pichler, the managing director of the Graz 2026 bid corporation.
The mayor of Graz, Siegfried Nagl, added "I am pleased that the study is now here, so we can face all the critics with facts. We are fortunate that in the last decades we have invested in winter sports, so we have nothing new to build and that will benefit us in the application."
Convincing the critics may not be easy.
There is the question of a referendum. The Austrian Communist Party has been gathering signatures since January on a petition to force a referendum. A bid by Innsbruck to host in 2026 was shot down by voters in a referendum last October. Sion’s bid in neighboring Switzerland couldn’t pass muster with voters earlier this month.
IOC vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch, visiting Austria last week, said that if Graz and the surrounding region of Styria decide that they want a candidature "then I would say: Austria has not had any Olympic Games for more than 40 years as a winter sports show country and the chances are very good."
Austria has not hosted an Olympics since the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck.
Written by Gerard Farek
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