International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member Gunilla Lindberg has this week strongly backed the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid from Stockholm-Åre in Sweden.
The Swede had remained low-key until the submission of her bid’s application file Friday along with rival Milan-Cortina from Italy. The prominent and outspoken Lindberg most recently led the IOC Coordination Commission that was instrumental in helping deliver the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
She sees the Stockholm-Åre proposal as a great fit for the kind of Games the Olympic Movement needs now.
“The question is not what the Olympic Movement can give Sweden, but rather what Sweden can contribute to the Olympic Movement,” Lindberg said.
“It’s really simple. Just think about what Sweden stands for. Democracy, humility, equality, sustainability, transparency, the environment, reliability, honesty, public health, and interest in sport just to name a few.
“In all these areas, Sweden is a world leader.
“That is why I say these Games are about much more than 2026, they are about the future of the Winter Games.”
As an influential member of the IOC and Secretary-General of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), her strong support of Sweden’s bid is expected to give the project a major boost when her IOC colleagues gather to elect a winner in Lausanne, Switzlerland in June.
But in order to reach the finish line, bid officials will first need to get local politicians to buy into the project. A Stockholm city coalition government formed last year on the condition that it not fund the hosting of an Olympic Games, and a currently hung parliament has made it impossible for organizers to secure national government support.
The IOC deadline to provide government assurances passed on Friday, but IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi agreed to grant extensions, providing both bids more time to comply.
A parliamentary vote is expected this month that may open the door for government approval, and the bid said it remains in talks with the city to change its position. Last week three governors representing regions with host venues voiced their support for the project.
Milan-Cortina claim to have all of the necessary support after securing government ‘approval’ last week, but it is still unclear if it meets IOC requirements. Further guarantees from both bids are required by April 12.
An Evaluation Commission to be led by Octavian Morariu will visit the Swedish capital from March 12 to 16 before inspecting the rival Italian bid from April 2 to 6.
“Hosting the Games is a personal dream,” Lindberg said.
“Of course, it is. Even a Board Member of the IOC must have her own private dreams. For me personally it would be absolutely amazing.”
While Lindberg is optimistic, she remains aware of both the hurdles and competition that must be faced in the months ahead.
“Hosting an Olympic Games is not a right; every Host City has to earn it. It’s a competition where there is only one medal, and very few have had the privilege of winning. It is a very exclusive club”.
Sweden has bid for, and lost, seven Winter Games bids. The Capital has only hosted the Summer Games once in 1912.
“Someone else was better. It’s that simple,” Lindberg said.
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“There is no room for excuses in sport. As an athlete you can’t go to an Olympic Games assuming you’ll win a gold medal just because you’ve participated; no one wins anything for simply showing up. It takes decades of preparation, almost beyond the imaginable to succeed – and it takes a lot of people such as coaches and officials helping as well.
“Yet in some ways, it’s even harder to win an Olympic bid. In that competition, there is only one winner.
“Therefore, I see it differently. Sweden has practiced hard for a long time. Sweden has shown dedication and perseverance beyond the imaginable. Sweden has planned and prepared. Sweden has leaders and coaches who have done everything they can, and we are now in the final. Our position is this race could not be better. That is my message to the doubters.
“I believe that ‘moderation’ is really something the Olympic Movement, and indeed the world, is looking for. This is really what the IOC’s new approach is all about: make hosting the Games more affordable, more sustainable and frankly more inspiring for cities and communities around the world. The good news is that this new focus of the IOC is exactly the way Sweden has always conducted business.”
The Milan-Cortina bid is also proposing a sustainable regional project with mostly existing venues and minimal permanent builds.
When tested, Lindberg immediately steps back into her role as IOC Executive Board member and remains diplomatic.
On the competition she said “Italy has a good concept and I think it will be an even match. 50/50”.
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.