Officials in Telemark County, a region in southern Norway, declared Tuesday that they are preparing to mount an 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.
“I can confirm that we want to bring the Winter Olympics to Telemark,” the county’s municipal sporting committee Chief Geir Berge Nordtveit confirmed to NRK on Monday.
According to local reports, preparations for the bid had been kept secret ahead of a planned campaign launch scheduled for Tuesday.
Organizers plan to stage events in Telemark – with a population of about 175,000 – as well as neighbouring counties including Vestfold and Buskerud.
Norway’s Capital Oslo bid for the 2022 edition of the Games before the ruling federal government party forced an end to the campaign when it refused to provide risky financial guarantees. It was the fourth European city to exit that race for similar reasons, leaving Beijing to defeat the only remaining rival Almaty to win the right host the Games.
Telemark’s dream may be too big, however, as critics have already come forward saying the bid is a long shot.
Banking Executive Jacob Lund told NRK “It’s tragicomic that Telemark can even think that it’s possible to mount such an arrangement, even in cooperation with (the bordering counties of) Vestfold and Buskerud.”
He said that most venues would have to be built from scratch and the costs could exceed NOK 60 billion (USD 7.5 billion). Lund also questioned the value of the new venues and their questionable legacies.
“Who would use the ski jumps needed?” he asked.
The International Olympic committee (IOC) has been leveraging its Agenda 2020 bidding reforms to help promote more feasible and sustainable Olympic projects that involve the use of mostly existing venues and infrastructure and little or no new construction. For the Winter Games officials have been encouraging a more widespread footprint – even across international borders – to make use of existing facilities including ski jumps, sliding tracks and arenas so costs and risks can remain low.
The IOC launched the dialogue phase of the 2026 Olympic site selection process last month designed to advise cities bidding for the Games, and have set an application deadline of March 31 next year. The international campaigning is set to begin next October with the final election scheduled for September 2019 in Milan.
Recent comments by top Olympic officials suggest that it is possible the IOC might select hosts for both the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games simultaneously in Milan – just as they selected both Summer Games hosts Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 last month at a Session in Lima, Peru. Those suggestions have prompted interested bids from the United States to come forward to prepare in time for the 2026 deadline, though they might be targeting the 2030 opportunity.
Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe are among those cities that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has identified.
Earlier this month Innsbruck in Austria was eliminated as an early contender in the race after narrowly losing a bid referendum. A bid from Stockholm, Sweden is still seeking government support while a project from Calgary in Canada needs the go-ahead from a newly elected City Council.
The most developed bid, Sion in Switzerland, needs final government approvals and a referendum victory next Fall in order to be a finalist in the race.
A possible bid from Sapporo, Japan has entered discussions with the IOC while interest has been voiced by Erzurum in Turkey and 2022 runner-up bid Almaty in Kazakhstan.
Norway hosted a Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994 and Oslo in 1952.