The Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) Wednesday gave conditional approval to move forward with a 2026 Olympic Winter Games bids from Graz and Schladming, ensuring that the project can meet an International Olympic Committee (IOC) March 31 deadline to express interest.
The bid, that would include many ice events in Graz and snow events around Schladming, will now be able to participate in the IOC’s dialogue phase and be considered for an invitation to the candidate phase starting in October.
But the ÖOC warns that the bid project must gain wide approval and deliver a favourable feasibility study that is currently scheduled for completion in June.
“This is an important first step,” ÖOC President Karl Stoss told meinbezirk.at.
“In order to be able to enter the preparatory phase with the IOC [in October], a clear commitment of the Styrian provincial government to the feasibility study and the definitive application will be necessary.”
Councilor for Sport Anton Lang said “Now it’s time to start talking at eye level with those responsible at the federal level and with the representatives of the Olympic Committee. If we have specific concepts and exact figures, we will examine them on the part of the country.”
Last year a 2026 bid from Austrian city Innsbruck, despite having a strong feasibility study, was defeated when 53.35 percent voted against it in a general referendum. Organizers say that no referendum is required in the Styria region, but the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) has launched a petition campaign to gather 10,000 signatures across the city, to possibly force a public vote in Graz.
To date, 4,500 names have been collected.
KPÖ party Chair Manfred Eber said in a statement “In the view of the KPÖ, sustainable Olympic Games are incompatible with the existing regulations of the IOC.”
“A financially far reaching decision should not be made beyond the heads of taxpayers. Grazers must have the opportunity to express their will on this issue.”
Also Wednesday, Calgary’s city council scheduled an April 10 debate and vote to decide whether to hold a plebiscite over the Canadian bid to host the 2026 Games. If approved, the public vote would likely occur in October.
Sion in Switzerland already has a binding referendum scheduled for June 10 across Valais canton, but the 2026 bid could face a national vote next year if parliament approves a motion.
Stockholm is Sweden and Sapporo in Japan are other cities currently working on Games bids. Erzurum in Turkey and either Turin or Milan in Italy may also enter the race ahead of the month-end deadline.
Lillehammer in Norway and a United States city from among Salt Lake City, Reno or Denver are looking forward to a 2030 Winter Games bid.
The IOC will elect the 2026 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.