Reporting from Stockholm, Sweden – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation team spent its first full day in Stockholm Wednesday touring proposed venues for Sweden’s Stockholm-Åre 2026 Winter Olympic bid.
The week-long Evaluation Commission visit started in the gusty and cold weather of Åre Tuesday but a fresh layer of wet snow and milder overcast conditions greeted the team 650 km away and further South in the Capital.
After a one-hour flight and 90 minutes of airport transfer time, Evaluation Commission Chair Octavian Morariu seemed unconcerned about the large separation between the Alpine ski events and the majority of the other venues in the plan, including the main Olympic Village.
“It is a great distance, and even if you fly, but this is also a proof of flexibility,” Morariu said from Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium where the team had just been briefed on the history of the venue.
“Also, in every city are existing venues which is very, very important and I think this is also a great asset to the Games.”
The sliding track for bobsled, luge and skeleton events is located in Sigulda, Latvia – about 505 km away, requiring a flight over the Baltic Sea. The IOC won’t be traveling to that location during this inspection.
If the bid is successful, the Stockholm-Åre plan could feature the most widespread Winter Olympics footprint in history.
The rival Milan-Cortina bid from Italy also names two distant cities to help leverage existing facilities and reduce new builds, but the travel distances would be less than in Sweden.
The IOC has endorsed the new two-city bid concepts to support Agenda 2020, the reform package including requirements that underline host city sustainability and efficiency. The IOC reported that the bids use 80 percent existing facilities and that will help reduce the costs and risks of hosting the Games.
“I think we all need to adapt to this in the future,” Morariu said.
Three of seven applicants including Graz in Austria, Sion in Switzerland and Calgary in Canada dropped out of the race after public fears emerged of cost overruns that are typically related to the construction of new venues. Sapporo in Japan pushed its bid to 2030 and Erzurum in Turkey was excluded by the IOC after the project was deemed too expensive.
Speaking from the world’s oldest in-use Olympic Stadium in Stockholm, built for the 1912 Summer Games, Morariu was inspired and told reporters “I think this is a very nice proof of legacy. It’s also a motivation for the future.”
The Stadium was used for events in the Nordic Games, the predecessor and inspiration for the Winter Olympics.
The IOC team is scheduled to travel to Falun Thursday, a three-hour journey to visit proposed facilities for the ski jump and Nordic events.
The group returns for meetings in Stockholm Friday to review the bid books that were submitted by both cities in January. To improve transparency, for the first time the media have been invited to the opening 90-minutes of the meeting before the doors are closed for private sessions.
The visit will conclude Saturday.
The Evaluation Commission is scheduled for a similar visit to Italy from April 2 to 6. The winning host city will be elected on June 23 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
GamesBids.com will be reporting from Sweden this week, bringing you on-site coverage of the important Evaluation Commission visit. Follow us on Twitter @GamesBids or on Facebook to keep up with this event.
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.