PyeongChang, South Korea – Last year, Stockholm’s fledgling 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid was told by the Mayor to end it’s campaign – and that it wouldn’t get the City’s support. Many had written off Sweden’s chances of hosting, instead looking towards Switzerland and Canada to take on the role.
But now, it seems, the Swedish Capital is back in the race – as competitive as ever.
“We’re taking it step-by-step, that’s the approach, and building momentum as we go,” Stockholm 2026 CEO Richard Brisius told GamesBids.com at Sweden Arena, the nation’s PyeongChang hospitality house at the Games.
He said the bid never stopped moving forward, even after Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngard called off the project last April while managing her complex four-party coalition in City Council.
But Brisius and his bid knew things were changing in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and due to the new reforms and strategies – including the awarding of both the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles showing that the organization was willing to change the rules to accommodate bids – he knew there was still an opportunity for Sweden in the race.
He said “[the Mayor] pressed the pause button, and then we kept on working and then fortunately, thanks to the [Olympic] Agenda 2020 decisions including in particular the ’24 and ’28 double-decision, in combination with other clear signs – it’s reality.”
“The IOC are serious about changing – that has actually helped us.”
He said politicians, reporters and other stakeholders in his country are noticing the changes, and forming new opinions about the IOC.
“The level of knowledge and the level of ownership of the Olympics is very big among Swedes historically so the only way that I have found for us is to explain [the new process] exactly how it is and then let people take it in as they want. And that’s why we are taking our time.
“And then what we are doing is gradually building more and more support in Sweden both in politics, in business, in the society in general, and of course in sports.
“That’s what happened over the last half year. So we are in a much better position now than we were just before the summer for sure. We’re positive.”
A Stockholm 2026 delegation traveled to PyeongChang for a special observers program and representatives from various points-of-view, including all three levels of government, were present to attend workshops and learn the new process.
“It’s a perfect fit for us to get that expertise in and get that opportunity to sit down and talk through things. So that works fantastically well for us.”
Stockholm has already locked in it’s interest with the IOC and will now work to develop project plans and collect various guarantees from stakeholders. In October the IOC Executive Board will invite qualified candidates to move forward with the process, requiring those cities to submit the documents in January 2019.
“There are no hurdles in the application process, up until January next year when we provide our guarantees [to the IOC],” Brisius said.
“That’s our drop-dead date,” he added, indicating that all stakeholders must be on board at that point.
But things could change earlier in October when Swedes go to the ballot box in a national general election. Brisius doesn’t believe the Games bid will be part of an election platform because no tax money will be required, but he wouldn’t rule out that the results could impact the bid moving forward. He added that there is no legal requirement in Sweden for a referendum over the project – a process that has ended several European bids in the past including Innsbruck’s campaign for these same 2026 Games.
Stockholm applied to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games but was the first of four European cities to drop out of the race after the ruling government party had no appetite to construct expensive venues. Those Games went to Beijing instead.
But now the rules have changed, and the IOC is discouraging the construction of new facilities when avoidable.
Yet Brisius told GamesBids.com that part of the Olympic project is to build an additional Speed-Skating Oval and Nordic Ski venue, even though those facilities already exist.
He said “the IOC are challenging us on that but we really need it because Stockholm is a big area with lots of people – and ice sports are huge.”
Stockholm is in the 2026 race with three other interested cities including Sion in Switzerland, Calgary in Canada and Sapporo in Japan – and Graz in Austria has planned to enter the race before the March 31 deadline. But it’s not yet certain whether any of these cities will stay in the race until the IOC selects a winner in September 2019.
IOC officials haven’t ruled out the possibility of the Winter Games double-allocation for 2026 and 2030, just as they did for the Summer Games last year.
When asked about the 2030 option Brisius said “we are flexible,” adding “but we are told that’s not the plan.”