Innsbruck Proposes Economical $1.3 Billion 2026 Olympic Winter Games

A feasibility study released by the Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) Wednesday suggests Innsbruck could host its third Olympic Games in 2026 on a shoestring budget of about (USD) $1.3 billion (1.175 billion euros), a mere fraction of the cost of recent Winter Games.

Feasibility study for Innsbruck 2026 presented on June 21, 2017 (Austrian Olympic Committee Photo)

Feasibility study for Innsbruck 2026 presented on June 21, 2017 (Austrian Olympic Committee Photo)

Leveraging legacy from the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games and experience from hosting the Games in both 1964 and 1976, a study suggests Innsbruck could host a regional Games where 77 percent of the sport venues already exist and the remaining will be comprised of temporary installations.  Under this proposal, no new venues would need to be constructed.

A $111 million contingency fund has been added to the total budget, and the study says all Games organizing costs can be covered by conservative revenue estimates, meaning there would be no deficit.

The model being proposed by the study is similar to the low risk, low cost concept of Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Summer Games where the U.S. city will build no new permanent infrastructure for the Games.  However, Innsbruck’s Olympic Village, though a planned project, has not been included in the budget.

Venues would be spread across the Tyrol region and in Southern Germany.  The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 reforms permit a more widespread Games footprint and venues situated across international borders if it leads to costs savings and improved sustainability.

According to the study, only 46 percent of the athletes and officials are accommodated in the central Olympic Village so the potential bid will propose the use of a residential building project planned at the Innsbruck freight yard.  The remaining 54 percent will be distributed to the venues across Tyrol, decentralizing the athletes.

The study suggests that by decentralizing athletes and officials, traffic congestion will be reduced and as a result no transport upgrades are required to host the Games.

This study, conducted by a joint venture with PROPROJEKT and AS + P with the regional project partners Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) and Solid – Event, Management and Consulting GmbH, is a comprehensive starting point should a bid move forward. It examines the core areas of sports infrastructure and competition venues, housing, transport, the environment and sustainability as well as the financial elements.

Tivoli Stadium Tyrol, with a capacity of 40,000 is being suggested for the Opening and Closing Ceremony; the Olympic Stadium would host Figure Skating, Short Track and Ice Hockey Finals and the Tyrolean Water Power Arena would host curling.

Other venues include Olympic World for Snowboard – Big Air; Bergiselschanze for Ski Jumping; Olympic ice track Innsbruck / Igls for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge.  Suggested ice hockey arenas are scattered across the region including as far as Munich, Germany.

Innsbruck Mayor Christine Oppitz-Plörer said “at the Youth Olympic Games in 2012, we have shown in Innsbruck that a different trend is taking place: new sustainable large-scale events, which have an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable effect. In the end, this was also reflected in the financially positive outcome of these Games.”

ÖOC President Karl Stoss added “In the application process 2026, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will support the candidates much more intensively.”

On Tuesday an IOC spokesperson said that they have already been working with Innsbruck, among the other bids.

“The IOC has, for some time now, been exchanging information with National Olympic Committees and cities potentially interested in submitting a candidature for the Olympic Winter Games 2026,” a statement said.

“This exchange helps cities better appreciate the scope and scale of an Olympic Winter Games, within the context of Olympic Agenda 2020, which has a number of recommendations that help to reduce the cost and complexity of organising the Games.”

Stoss said “The process will be significantly easier and more cost-effective.  With Innsbruck / Tyrol, we have a chance to prove that you can organize games modern but still in a friendly format, on facilities that have long existed, in places that have a tradition of winter sports.  With new transport concepts, with several Olympic villages – without gigantism, without white elephants.”

The plan will have to be approved by residents of Tyrol through an October 15 referendum being held in conjunction with parliamentary elections in Austria.

Innsbruck hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976 and the Youth Olympic Winter Games in 2012

Innsbruck hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976 and the Youth Olympic Winter Games in 2012

“With a clear conscience, we now pass on to the population the decision whether the Innsbruck / Tirol region is to provide the International Olympic Committee with a self-assured offer for redesigned Olympic Winter Games in 2026,” Tirol’s regional head Günther Platter said.

“I see good opportunities for the country of Tyrol, the city of Innsbruck and all venues to benefit from such sustainable Games. For us, it is clear that we only want to do such games, and then we will see whether the IOC will remain on its announcements and give such redimensioned Games its success.”

Using the study as a platform, a public information campaign is set to run through the coming weeks ahead of the required referendum in the region.

On Monday Calgary released a detailed report that outlined a preliminary estimate of (USD) $3.5 billion (CAN $4.6 billion) that would be the cost for the Canadian city to organize the Games.  The city believes it would need to build two hockey arenas to deliver the Games but the IOC said Tuesday that it believed the cost could be reduced if the bid follows new bidding reforms that are part of Agenda 2020, and further rule changes expected to be announced July 11.

Other cities interested in lodging bids are past host Sapporo as well as Erzurum in Turkey.  Almaty in Kazakhstan was runner-up to Beijing in the 2022 Winter Games bid and could also be considered a contender in 2026.

Applications to bid for the Games will be due into the IOC sometime in 2018 with the winner being announced one year later.

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.