With Sapporo in Japan vying to host the Olympic Winter Games in 2026, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach told reporters Thursday that three straight Asian host cities for the event would not be a problem.
That message, reported by Kyodo News, affirms Sapporo’s ambitions to host the Games for the first time in the city since 1972, even as it follows two straight Games hosted by neighbors PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022.
The Japanese city has expressed interest in hosting the Games among rivals Calgary in Canada, Erzurum in Turkey, Graz in Austria, Stockholm in Sweden and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin in Italy.
Earlier this month frontrunner Sion in Switzerland was forced to withdraw from the race after losing a referendum over the project.
With the other cities facing obstacles of their own, Sapporo is seen as a solid back-up plan should all else fail.
But Sapporo’s bid has become fickle in recent weeks, and officials have hinted that as a result of public input it may be better to focus a bid on the 2030 edition instead, when a new high-speed rail line will be delivered to the city. The new transport link would be key in the overall plans.
Three U.S. cities, along with Lillehammer in Norway are already lining up for their shot at the 2030 Games that won’t likely be sited until 2023 – unless the IOC opts to elect two Winter Games hosts simultaneously as they did last year with Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 for the Summer Games.
No commitments are required yet by the IOC for 2026 who will create a shortlist of qualified cities in early October. Bid books and guarantees are not due until January and the final host city election will take place September 2019.
Calgary will hold a referendum likely in November and Graz may too face a public vote if a petition is successful. Stockholm, and bids from Italy still need government support while Erzurum will have to assure it is a safe bet near the dangerous border of Syria.
As time passes, Sapporo may become a more important part of the IOC’s plans.
Bach told reports that he hopes to meet with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he travels to Tokyo later this year to discuss, among other things, North Korea’s participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has said that he wants his nation’s athletes to participate in both the 2020 and 2022 Games following their appearance in PyeongChang earlier this year.