The Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) has made progress collecting signatures for a petition to force a referendum in Graz over the city’s potential 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.
The petition, open to Graz residents who are European Union citizens over the age of 16, already has 3,700 signatures – and 10,000, according to KPÖ, will be required for the city to consider the referendum request.
KPÖ began collecting signatures last month shortly after organizers expressed interest in bidding for the Games. Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) President and IOC member Karl Stoss said last month that he hoped to move plans forward without a referendum.
Those wishing to sign the Graz 2026 petition are asked to download a form with the header “Referendum Now!” from the KPÖ Website and mail or deliver the signed copies to party headquarters. The KPÖ have also set up information and signing booths around the city. A similar strategy was used when an upstart political party in Hungary rallied to collect over 260,000 signatures to force a referendum in Budapest, eventually defeating the 2024 Summer Games bid.
Last October Innsbruck, also in Austria, was forced to drop plans to enter the race after losing a public referendum where 53.35 percent voted against the project. Instead, the joint bid between Graz and Schladming will be forwarded by the Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) in a letter of interest before the March 31 International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline.
Other cities including Calgary, Sapporo, Sion, Stockholm and possibly Erzurum in Turkey and either Turin or Milan in Italy could also enter the 2026 race.
Sion faces a referendum in Switzerland’s Canton of Valais on June 10 and may also be forced into a national referendum should the Upper House of the Parliament confirm the motion later this year. Last year a referendum in St. Moritz Switzerland for a local bid was defeated by over 60 percent of the voters.
At a strategic meeting Wednesday (March 21), some Calgary City Councillors will be calling for an October referendum to decide whether to pursue the Canadian Olympic bid. Last year Councillors voted against a similar proposal and with polling showing support for those Games at over 60 per cent and the estimated cost of a plebiscite near CAD $2 million (USD $1.53 million), the motion is not expected to carry.
A referendum in Graz could be devastating for the Austrian candidate as bid-ending votes have recently flourished across Europe. Munich, Krakow and St. Moritz fell victims to public votes during 2022 Winter Games bids and Hamburg was similarly defeated in its campaign to host the 2024 Summer Games.
Budapest proactively dropped out of the 2024 race after the petition forced a binding referendum that some stakeholders, including the Hungarian Prime Minister, feared would be lost.
The IOC will invite qualified candidates to bid in October, and guarantees from prospective host cites will be due next January.
The IOC will elect the host city in September 2019.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.