Sweden’s Åre has taken centre stage on the winter sports calendar with its 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships, creating an international buzz. Athletes and spectators have been lauding the venue conditions and athletic performances that have included the final medal-winning career race of legendary American skier Lindsey Vonn.
It’s no surprise that the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) last month chose to add Åre to the marquee of the nation’s 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid, along with capital Stockholm, to try to win the first ever Winter Games for Sweden.
SOK President Mats Årjes said declaring the proposed event a Stockholm-Åre 2026 joint effort was a “natural step” towards being named the host city by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when the vote takes place June 24 in Switzerland.
“Åre has been a key part of all of Sweden’s candidatures for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” Årjes said in Åre this week.
“It’s the only place in the country where you can host all of the alpine competitions that make up the Winter Games.”
“There are arena sports that can be held in other big cities and certain disciplines that can be held outdoors too, but when it comes to the facilities and conditions required for the alpine competitions, Åre stands out as an obvious venue.”
Organizers have said that the current World Championships has been an opportunity to showcase the venues and organization that could successfully deliver the Games in 2026. But the event is merely one of over 100 major competitions held in Åre over the years, helping create the world-renowned wealth of experience that the Swedes have to host the Olympics.
The IOC has frowned upon jointly named bids in the past, but to remain consistent with new Olympic Agenda 2020 sustainability reforms the organization now embraces the nomenclature that helps describe the regional nature of the projects. Rival Italian bid Milan-Cortina 2026 has leveraged the same strategy.
“I hope and believe that sustainability, which is clearly an important part of any future Olympic Games, is given the place it deserves,” said Årjes.
“The World Cup in Åre is a great example of that, because we’ve basically used 100 percent of what was used in 2007 for the World Cup – and that’s exactly how it should be in the Olympics, too.”
The regional project also includes existing venues in Stockholm, Falun and Sigulda in Latvia where a sliding track is ready to stage bobsleigh, luge and skeleton races without having to build a costly new facility. The PyeongChang sliding track built specifically for last year’s Winter Games has now been mothballed due to high operating costs, and Korean athletes now train in Canada instead.
“I really believe that this would be a great opportunity for our country to show how good we are – both in hosting big events, and also how we think about sustainability issues,” he said.
The 2026 Winter Olympics will be underway exactly seven years from now with both the Swedish and Italian proposals scheduling an Opening Ceremony on February 6 with events running until February 22. The Paralympic Games would span March 6 to 15.
The Swedes hope to secure critical government support before a planned site visit by the IOC Evaluation Commission on March 12. A newly formed government coalition is still considering the opportunity but last year the a city government coalition rejected the prospect of funding a Games.
The IOC had expected these guarantees to be in place last January 11 but instead granted both bids extensions after the field of seven applicants had already dwindled down to two, making further eliminations counter-productive.
The current nature of the required guarantees and the new timeline is still unclear.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has suggested that the Milan-Cortina bid has already secured all the guarantees required and is ready for its April 2 visit from the IOC and the June 24 vote. The IOC has not confirmed this claim and last year the Italian government said it would not fund an Olympics.
Italian Capital Rome was forced to drop bids for the 2020 and 2024 Summer Games due to loss of government stakeholder support.