IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board has recommended 2026 Olympic Winter Games bids from Calgary, Stockholm and Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy move forward as final candidates. Outsider bid from Erzurum in Turkey will be eliminated from the race.
The decision was made at the IOC’s Executive Board meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina ahead of the Youth Olympic Games.
The short list is expected to be rubber-stamped by the full membership at an IOC Session on Monday.
IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch who presented findings from the bid dialogue stage to the Board, said that all four cities fully embraced new Agenda 2020 IOC reforms in order to make their projects possible.
Samaranch added, however, that the bid from Erzurum will need more time before it can be ready to host the Olympic Games.
“We found out it’s a little challenging in some of those technical aspects in transportation, in telecommunications, airports, etc.,” he said.
“We reviewed the level of investment needed,” he said, “and it is very, very high – to the point that we believe it can be done, but probably if they have more time.”
“We will continue to talk to them,” Samaranch added, explaining that the city can host world championships and perhaps a future Youth Olympic Games to build experience and infrastructure.
The decision to leave Erzurum behind does not come as a surprise as the Turkish city had been an outsider from the start. Little of the bid’s plans had been published, and rumors that venues could be shared with Sochi in Russia stirred some controversy due to the 2014 Winter Games host’s doping scandal.
There were also concerns that the geopolitics of the region could present security risks.
Thursday’s miss by Turkey marks the sixth consecutive Olympic bid loss by the country after Istanbul failed in five attempts since 2000 to host the Summer edition.
Samaranch commended the other three bids for their work, and the quality of their projects.
“Calgary presents an extraordinary concept .. a very solid concept,” Samaranch explained saying that 80 percent of venues exist but additional permanent works are required.
Two additional venues are to be built, but he said they have “perfect legacy.”
He said that Milan-Cortina, an Italian project just organized late last month, was “very interesting and very attractive.”
Though the Italian government has not offered financial backing, Samaranch highlighted the strong political support of the federal and regional governments, and the general support of the communities as well as the winter sports experience.
“It’s a very good opportunity for the Olympic Movement,” he said.
Samaranch said the bid from Stockholm also has experience and ready-to-use infrastructure and is leveraging the new reforms to create a low-cost sustainable project.
The Swedish Olympic Committee is behind Stockholm’s bid to host the first Winter Games in the nation, but to date, there has been no political will to back the project. With a currently hung parliament, it seems unlikely that Stockholm can get the necessary guarantees ahead of a January deadline.
Calgary faces a risky November 13 plebiscite that if lost, could force the Canadian city out of the race.
Italy also still requires various approvals for its project that needs a lot of work before it is ready for the final vote.
With Erzurum out of the race, and no guarantee that the other three cities will remain in the hunt until the election – the IOC might face a situation where there are no cities left standing to host the Games.
Already three cities – Graz in Austria, Sion in Switzerland and Sapporo in Japan have dropped out of the race that began in March with seven cities. The 2022 race began with six cities, but was won by Beijing after the Chinese capital defeated only Almaty in Kazakhstan when the four European contenders withdrew due to various losses of support.
The remaining trio will now prepare to submit bid books and guarantees due into the IOC January 11, and will be added to the ballot when the final vote is held next September.
The final election was due to be held in Milan, but since Italy will be a candidate – the meeting to hold the vote will likely be moved to Lausanne, Switzerland.