(ATR) The IOC Evaluation Commission braved the elements for a second consecutive day while touring proposed venues for the 2026 Olympics, this time in Stockholm.
Led by commission chair Octavian Morariu, the IOC group of about 12, accompanied by Stockholm 2026 CEO Richard Brisius and Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg, persevered through soggy, mixed precipitation, during a visit to Stockholm Olympic Stadium.
During their Tuesday visit to the ski resort of Åre, located more than 600 kilometers (373 miles) northwest of Stockholm, frigid temperatures and gusty winds on the mountain prevailed.
"It was really winter conditions, but we’re here for the Winter Olympics, so we all know that this happens and we have to adapt," Morariu said, responding to a question from Around the Rings in Olympic stadium. "I think the athletes are also used to this.
"We know the organizers could and will do their utmost to provide the best conditions for the athletes," he added.
Morariu also addressed the long distance between the snow and ice venues, a plan that may not have been accepted prior to the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms.
"It is a great distance indeed, even if you fly, but this also proves our flexibility," the Romanian IOC member said. "I think we all need to adapt to this in the future.
"It also makes use of existing venues, which is very important and I think a great asset to the Games."
The venerable stadium – which was home to the 1912 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in the Swedish capital – is proposed for snowboard and freestyle skiing "Big Air" should Stockholm-Åre defeat the Italian joint bid of Milan-Cortina and win the right in June to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Local cross-country skiers made loops inside the stadium, skating along a snow-covered track. One skier, when queried about the quest to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Stockholm, wavered. "Stockholm is not that big," he said.
However, when asked about possibly witnessing events in the city center, he admitted "That would be very exciting."
A small contingent of about eight journalists are shadowing the IOC commission and Stockholm 2026 groups, this week in Sweden.
After crossing paths at Olympic Stadium, both media and the IOC group were shown a film about Sweden hosting the Nordic Games on seven occasions between 1901 and 1926. The film suggests and explains how the multi-sport event was a precursor and inspiration for Pierre de Coubertin and the creation of the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924.
The founder of the Nordic Games, Viktor Balck, was a charter member of the International Olympic Committee and a president of the International Skating Union. Figure skating legends Sonja Henie and Gillis Grafström both competed at the Nordic Games before each proceeded to win three Olympic gold medals.
After visiting the Olympic Stadium, the IOC commission went to Södertälje to see the women’s ice hockey arena, then to Hamra-Botkyrka to the site of the proposed cross-country and biathlon venue. The morning also involved a drive to Gubbangen, the site where the curling venue is being built.
Meanwhile, the media group toured the small Hammarbybacken Ski Area, just outside the city center. Following the recent Alpine skiing world championships, Hammarbybacken hosted an FIS parallel slalom event at night, and is expected to do the same should Stockholm win the bid.
The mixed precipitation and sloppy conditions continued throughout the day, but most journalists persevered.
A television reporter from RAI did a stand-up at the top of the hill, as young skiers arrived on one of the ski area’s two rope tows. Perhaps embellishing, the gist of her reports focused around Sweden’s cold and damp winter weather. She showed her fellow journalists photos of blue skies in Milan, while back in the warm bus.
The IOC group met the president of the Stockholm City Council, Cecilia Brinck, and two-time Olympic curling champion Anette Norberg, among others, for lunch.
The venue tour continued in the afternoon with a visit to Stockholm’s iconic Ericsson Globe Arena and the adjacent, more modern, Tele2 Arena.
The Globe, a Stockholm landmark, is the proposed venue for men’s ice hockey and will undergo a reconstruction effort in the near future, regardless if Sweden wins the bid. The Tele2 Arena, with a capacity of 30,000 for soccer, is being proposed for figure skating and short track skating.
A visit to the site of the downtown medals plaza concluded the day’s packed schedule.
The IOC’s five-day inspection visit continues on Wednesday with a trip to Falun, about a three-hour drive from Stockholm, to see the proposed venue for ski jumping and Nordic combined. The journalists will continue to follow the IOC and Stockholm 2026 group.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Stockholm
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