Councillor Calls For Graz 2026 Olympic Bid Referendum After Collecting Required Petition Signatures

An Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) Councillor in Graz has called for a referendum over the city’s 2026 Olympic bid after reaching a petition milestone, and just hours after a feasibility study suggested an Olympic Games would pose minimal risks.

Newsletter in Graz, Austria with headline "Olympics in Graz? YES to Referendum" (Photo: KPÖ Graz Facebook)
Newsletter in Graz, Austria with headline “Olympics in Graz? YES to Referendum” (Photo: KPÖ Graz Facebook)

“We already have more than 10,000 signatures [required to request a vote], but continue to collect and will submit the signatures in the summer months,” Councilwoman Elke Kahr said in a statement Thursday.

“Then it’s up to Mayor [Siegfried] Nagl to ask people before the decision is made,” she added.

“Graz citizens must have the right to participate in such a far-reaching and momentous decision for their city.”

Graz was chosen as Austria’s replacement bid candidate in January after Innsbruck’s campaign was folded due to its lost referendum last year.  Earlier this month Sion in Switzerland canceled its bid plans when voters across Valais Canton rejected necessary funding for the project.

Graz’s rival Calgary in Canada is expected to hold a plebiscite in November.

For the 2022 Winter Games five European cities withdrew bids due to loss of support.  For the 2024 Summer Games, Hamburg lost a referendum and Budapest withdrew ahead of a feared public vote.

Recent polls in the Styrian State where Graz is the capital have shown a slim majority support the Olympic project.  But similar positive polls in the recent past – including in Sion and Innsbruck – have resulted in narrow election losses.

Winter Olympics Feasible “Without Much Risk” According to Graz 2026 Bid Study

The referendum isn’t expected to be binding according to the Austrian political system, but public opposition to the bid will be difficult for politicians to ignore.

KPÖ Chair Manfred Eber was critical of the released feasibility study that estimated the Games would cost 1.137 billion euro (USD $1.3 million) and would rely on existing venues, infrastructure and expertise and would need no taxpayer funding.

“Of course, we will study the study in detail before we can make a final judgment. In fact, more questions were raised today than answered,” Eber said.

Eber emphasized that the budget does not include costs of additional infrastructure that the KPÖ believes will be needed in the long run, and he insisted that the security estimates are significantly understated.  The KPÖ are also concerned about Games-related inflation, especially with respect to property costs, and the environmental impact.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will form a shortlist of candidates in October and elect a winner in September 2019.

Calgary, Erzurum, Sapporo, Stockholm and three Italian cities are also in the running.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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