The Graz 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid was withdrawn from the race Friday by the Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC). The sudden and unexpected development, just days after proponents released a positive feasibility study, has cast serious doubt on the entire 2026 process.
The ÖOC in a statement blamed lack of political commitment from the Styrian Provincial government for the project’s demise resulting in the cancellation of Austria’s second candidate for the same Games.
“On the basis of the current political discussions, the ÖOC has to note with great regret that a clear political commitment or support from the Styrian provincial government – considered by the ÖOC from the outset as compulsory – has not yet taken place,” the ÖOC statement read.
“Under these circumstances, a project of this dimension is not feasible and internationally hardly acceptable.
“The ÖOC has therefore today informed the IOC that the ongoing application talks will be terminated in order to avoid any further costs.”
Innsbruck lost a referendum last year, clearing the path for Graz’s entry into the race. Earlier this week parliament approved holding a referendum on the Styrian capital’s bid after an opposing party pressured politicians to involve the public in the decision-making process.
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With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) application deadline passed, Graz’s exit slams the door on Austria’s participation in the race.
“We regret that our top athletes and the winter sports fans this unique opportunity, an Olympic home games, is not in the near future,” said ÖOC President Karl Stoss.
But the ÖOC, remaining optimistic, see the work already done for 2026 as a strong foundation for a future bid.
“That’s a big positive surprise. That exceeds all my expectations,” Graz KPÖ city councilor Elke Kahr said on this news of the cancellation of the bid.
“Apparently, the rejection of the adventure Olympia in the Styrian population is even greater than we felt on our information booths.”
The KPÖ, opponents of an Olympic bid, had collected more than 11,000 signatures on a petition, enough to force a referendum.
Last month Sion in Switzerland lost a referendum, forcing it to exit the race. Only five cities remain interested in hosting, most with significant hurdles ahead.
Calgary in Canada is set to face a challenging referendum in November. Stockholm in Sweden seems unlikely to secure government support before the January deadline. A bid from Sapporo in Japan seems content to wait until 2030 when critical transport infrastructure will be ready. Italy is set to narrow a list from among Cortina d’Ampezzo, Turin and Milan next week but could face the same support challenges encountered by its European counterparts.
An unlikely bid from Erzurum in Turkey could be the only city to cross the finish line.
Four European cities dropped out of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid, leaving only Beijing to defeat Almaty in Kazakhstan to claim the hosting prize.
Three European bids made early exits from the 2024 Summer Games bid leading the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award both the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles, the only two remaining cities.
Recent efforts by the IOC to reverse the trend has included a reduction of host city requirements that promises to cut up to USD $500 million from the price tag, and a record contribution of USD $925 million to the budget of the winning bid.
On Friday the IOC said in a statement “The IOC fully understands the decision taken by the Austrian National Olympic Committee and respects their view that they do not wish to become part of a local political dispute since the Olympic Games should always be a unifying force.”
More to come…
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.