A critical referendum to be taken Sunday (October 15) across Innsbruck and Tirol could determine the fate of the Austrian 2026 Olympic Winter Games Bid, and more importantly it could set the tone of the entire race and how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) governs itself moving forward.
With so much at stake, voters will head to the polls following weeks of Innsbruck 2026 road shows and a deluge of social media posts aimed at promoting plans and encouraging supporters to vote.
At the moment it’s not clear which way the results are leaning.
In 2015, Hamburg was forced out of the 2024 race when voters rejected the bid with only a one per cent margin. About 70 per cent of voters in Krakow, Poland said ‘no’ to a 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid making it one of the five European cities to exit the race due to a loss of stakeholder support. Snowless Beijing defeated only unknown Almaty in Kazakhstan to end that race.
Olympic bid referendums across Europe have been considered unwinnable in an era where cities have needed to tighten budgets and the IOC and Olympic Movement have exhibited corruption and mismanagement.
Indeed, just last week Rio 2016 Olympic Bid Chief, who also led the organizing committee for the Games, was arrested and has been jailed under suspicion that he was part of a vote-buying conspiracy that helped South America win its first Olympic Games.
In September the IOC opted to award both 2024 and 2028 Games in one fell swoop – electing both remaining candidates for the 2024 Games Paris and Los Angeles – to lock in Summer Games stability for a decade. But with obstacles remaining in front of all interested 2026 bid cities, the IOC may have run out of options.
That might force the organization to be more proactive. As part of a reformed bid process launched last month, the IOC has pushed forward a bid deadline to March 2018, and immediately opened up a discussion phase where the IOC and cities can work together to build viable plans. If Innsbruck falls through, The IOC may need to seek out prospects and find potential hosts instead of the other way around.
Of four cities that were identified by the IOC as “interested” bidders at the September Lima Session, Stockholm has been denied government support; Sion is still waiting for Federal approval before it must then face a 2018 referendum; Calgary needs approval from a city council vote – and the city council is up for election on Monday; and Innsbruck’s fate lies in Sunday’s referendum.
If those fail, there are interested U.S. cities – but choosing an American host will be complex as Los Angeles has already been awarded the 2028 Summer Games and holding a Winter Games two years earlier could cause logistical and sponsorship challenges for both. Having already signed a contract, L.A. would get a say in the negotiations.
A referendum win Sunday will provide relief to the IOC, knowing for sure that a viable European candidate can be carefully walked across the finish line. A loss? That will send officials scrambling, looking for a plan ‘b’.
They hope to elect a winning city September 2019 in Milan, Italy.