Due to take place in February 2021, the Sweden Special Olympics World Winter Games have been canceled due to loss of Federal funding, it was announced Friday.
According to a Special Olympics statement, this is the first time the Games will be forced to look for a new host this close to the scheduled event.
The Games were due to be staged in Åre and Östersund and organizers had requested about USD $6 million towards the total $14 million price tag from the Swedish government. However, the promised funding failed to materialize and on Thursday the government voted to pull financial backing from the Games.
Organizers hoped to use the Games as a catalyst to improve support for citizens with intellectual disabilities with a series of health activities tied to Swedish government funding.
“We are an organization that faces adversity every day and have proven we can rise above even the toughest of challenges,” Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis said in a statement.
“Our athletes are resilient, spirited and have great character. This decision by the Swedish government is yet another hurdle to overcome.”
Johan Strid, Secretary General of the Swedish Parasport Federation and the Swedish Paralympic Committee said “…we…required financial support from the government. Since the government is not willing to support us, the people of Sweden will now miss the incredible opportunity to stake our claim as a pioneer of true social inclusion.”
It is with a heavy heart we share that our @sweden2021 World Games will not take place as planned.
We are currently exploring all available options to provide a world-class event for our athletes, coaches and families in 2021.
— Special Olympics (@SpecialOlympics) December 20, 2019
In June a 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid from Stockholm and Åre failed when instead an Italian bid represented by Milan and Cortina was elected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host. Bid organizers claimed the Games would be privately self funded without input from the Stockholm or Sweden governments.
Stockholm offered no financial guarantees for the Games but just weeks before the bid election the federal government agreed to support the project with required guarantees that it had been unwilling to provide earlier.
Åre government officials were willing to sign the IOC’s host contract.
A Special Olympics spokesperson said they will begin a search for a new host for the Games that will feature over 2000 athletes from 105 nations.