During a trip to Austria Thursday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch played up the chances of the Graz 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid.
“An Austrian application would be a big plus for the IOC, for the Olympic brand,” Samaranch said according to the Austria Olympic Committee (ÖOC).
“Graz is definitely a strong candidate, I can not say more, I hope you understand that, that would not be appropriate in my role as IOC Vice-President.”
But he cautioned “The budget still needs to be revised and the vision sharpened of what Graz wants to achieve in detail in the next 25, 30 years. Austria as a winter sports flagship country had more than 40 years with no Olympic Games.”
Samaranch visited the ÖOC in Vienna and met with Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl and Schladming Mayor Jürgen Winter, to discuss plans proposed by the principal host cities of the Graz bid.
He also visited the City Senate in Graz.
Samaranch said “I was bombarded with questions – in a positive sense – and I think I could tell the city government that we as IOC are not there to demand things, times have changed. We want smaller, affordable Games.
“We do not want stadiums that will be vacant in the future. Olympic Games should only come if they fit into the long-term planning of the region, and if I say long term, I mean 25, 30 or 50 years.”
“Less is more” – IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch
An opposition party in Graz is currently petitioning to force a public referendum to determine whether the bid should move forward in the face of financial risk. More than 9,500 names have been collected towards a goal of 10,000.
Recent polls have shown a slight majority support the bid across the region.
Last week a bid from Sion in Switzerland withdrew from the race after a canton-wide referendum was lost. Calgary is expected to hold a referendum in November to gauge interest in the Canadian bid.
Other cities in the race include Erzurum in Turkey, Stockholm in Sweden, Sapporo in Japan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin in Italy.
The IOC will select cities for a short list in October, but facing the recent history of cost over runs and corruption connected with organizing the Olympics – some of the candidates may fail to collect the stakeholder support they need in order to cross the finish line.
“Graz can rely on a large number of existing sports facilities and I believe that the financial risk of implementation would be absolutely manageable,” Samaranch said.
“The rest are infrastructural costs – such as in Sochi – that have caused enormous expenses.
“But that was the decision of Russia and not of the IOC. We do not want unnecessary expenses.
“Less is more.
“Our advice to [the State of] Stryia: Do not build sports facilities that you do not need … the IOC will not ask you to spend unnecessary money, I can guarantee that.”
The 2022 Winter Games are scheduled to be held in Beijing. The IOC will elect a 2026 host in September 2019.