Erzurum’s bid to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has yet to confirm critical venues just days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announces a short list of qualified candidates.
The north-eastern Turkish city seemed interested, earlier this month, in holding some events at Russian venues including at Sochi’s Sanki Sliding Center where luge, skeleton and bobsleigh were staged at the 2014 Winter Games.
Erzurum and Sochi are about 650 km apart, separated by Georgia along the Black Sea.
Erzurum Governor Seyfettin Azizoglu said last week in a meeting with Russian ambassador to Turkey Aleksey Erkhov “we are thinking to host the event together with Sochi if our bid wins.”
He had told Hurriyet “there are [bobsled] facilities in Sochi which we don’t have in Erzurum. [Building them] will be an expensive investment. There are facilities in Sochi, so we can do it [host the event] together.”
Planning events in Sochi risk stirring up controversy as the Russian resort town was involved in a massive state sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Olympics. Russian athletes were unable to compete under their own flag at the PyeongChang Games last February, but the National Olympic Committee has since been reinstated.
The IOC won’t likely support plans for Erzurum to construct its own costly track yet siting Olympic events in Russia may be equally uneasy for IOC stakeholders.
But Sputnik reported Tuesday that no such plans to co-host the Games with Russia had been made.
An Erzurum city spokesperson reportedly said “at the moment, there have been no requests [to Sochi] and no work has been done in that direction.”
“If Erzurum wins the bid to host the Olympics, then we can discuss this question. However, we have not made any official announcements yet, the Governor was talking only about a hypothetical possibility of such talks.”
The new dialogue raises questions about the Turkish city’s bid preparations just ahead of the October 8 announcement of candidates cities by the IOC in Buenos Aires.
Erzurum hosted the 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival and has some venues in place, including a ski jump facility, but here is no sliding track in Turkey.
Rival 2026 cities have already identified nearby existing sliding tracks that they will propose for their Games including the Calgary Sliding Centre built for the 1988 Games, a track in Sigulda, Latvia for Stockholm’s bid and for Italy’s bid, the facility in Cortina d’Ampezzo built for the 1956 Games.
No venue plans have been announced for Erzurum.
Istanbul in Turkey has bid unsuccessfully five times since 2000 for the Summer Games; Erzurum represents the nation’s first Winter Games bid. Many critics have dismissed the city’s chances due to security risks in the region.
But the IOC is keeping Erzurum in focus as the other 2026 bids continue to struggle.
Graz in Austria and Sion in Switzerland have already made early exits from the race after losing support. Calgary will face a decisive plebiscite on November 13. Stockholm has until January to secure government support that has remained elusive and Italy needs to solidify a partnership among proposed host cities and government partners before moving forward.
The IOC will elect a winning 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.