Just three months following Innsbruck’s 2026 Olympic bid referendum defeat and Austria’s lost Olympic dreams, there is now renewed hope that the European Winter sports power can still host the Games that same year.
It was announced Tuesday that the cities of Graz and Schladming in the province of Styria are quickly organizing plans ahead of a March 31 application deadline set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Schladming Mayor Jurgen Winter claims that there will be no need for a dream-killing referendum in his city.
Officials say they will outline and present a financial plan ahead of the deadline in March then deliver a feasibility study and master plan in June.
Provincial capital Graz would likely be the official host city and the site of some of the ice events including short-track, figure skating and curling. The track in Schönau am Königsee would host sliding events and Alpine skiing would be in Schladming. Ice hockey could be contested in Klagenfurt.
Still, there is much work to be done to get a bid up-to-speed, including the endorsement of the Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) and securing full government support. In October, the IOC will select qualified candidates to include on the final election ballot.
Last week, an ÖOC spokesperson said that they had not been involved in any conversations about a Styria bid.
Graz bid for the 2002 Games but missed the IOC’s short list before Salt Lake City took the prize. That campaign started a string of four-straight Winter Games bids – and defeats – from Austria, Klangenfurt for 2006 and Salzburg for the 2010 and 2014 editions. Innsbruck hosted the Games in 1964 and 1976.
Internationally, Sion in Switzerland is the only declared bidder but the city must face a dangerous referendum later this year. Calgary has shown great interest but still needs to rally government support to move forward. Last week IOC officials visited the Canadian city, host of the 1988 Games, to discuss bidding plans.
Interest has also been expressed from Sapporo in Japan and three U.S. cities including Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe – but those campaigns will more likely target 2030. Stockholm in Sweden has been trying to organize political support to pursue the Games, but has so far failed.
The IOC will elect the host city for the 2026 Games September, 2019 in Milan, Italy.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.