The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has further relaxed its traditionally rigid financial guarantee requirements expected from host city candidates with just over three months until the planned election of the 2026 Olympic Winter Games host city.
“Flexibility is the key word,” IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said in a media call from IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“The project is really building up to a level where all the information is required.”
Only two bids for the 2026 Games remain of seven applicants, and both Stockholm-Åre in Sweden and Milan-Cortina in Italy missed a January deadline that originally required specific financial assurances from the government.
At the time, Dubi said the bids would be granted more time to underwrite their promises to deliver a successful Games. Last year IOC President Thomas Bach said there was no “plan b” if all existing candidates failed to meet requirements.
“What we need to ensure at the end is that the Games are delivered,” Dubi said.
“We’ve seen in the recent bids some very creative ways to ensure that in the end … we want to make sure the Games are delivered and its more of a guarantee to deliver the Games.
“It’s different in various contexts and in leeway I meant by that flexibility of finding the right approach, the right kind of guarantees, the right kind of agreement, the right kind of setup that will best fit the given context.”
Sweden’s bid faced a rejection by the city government last year that vowed it would not burden taxpayers with any costs, and a new national government just recently formed after Swedish Parliament was hung for several months.
Though the bid will be privately funded, assurances for the provision of essential services still need to be provided.
“We have all the assurance we have been asking for at this point,” Stockholm-Åre 2026 CEO Richard Brisius said Tuesday, explaining that talks with government officials continue.
“We have all the support we are required for the bid stage.”
But according the the IOC, it’s not yet enough for the city to be signed on to host the Games.
“The talks with every level of government [in Sweden] is heading in the absolute right direction,” Dubi said, later adding that more information is being gathered, and will continue to be collected until the IOC chooses the winning city June 24 at an all-members Session in Lausanne.
In Italy, bid officials maintain that they have also provided all of the guarantees expected at this stage, even after the government last year vowed that it would spend no money on the project. Financing is expected to come from the regional government and private sources.
The IOC Evaluation Commission (EC) is set to visit Sweden next week to inspect the Stockholm-Åre bid from March 12 to 16 before heading to Italy next month and visiting venues proposed for the Milan and Cortina bid April 2 to 6.
The EC team will be lead by Romanian IOC member Octavian Morariu along with IOC members Kristin Kloster Aasen from Norway and Hong Zhang from China.
Stakeholder representatives in the delegation include Roman Kumpost from Czech Republic, Heike Groesswang from Germany, Hee-beom Lee from South Korea and José Luis Marco from Argentina.
Morariu said his team is very interested in reviewing proposed budgets during the four-day visits.
“I’d like to have confirmation we are heading in the right direction,” he said.
The team will also focus on the use of existing venues, a key IOC strategy to keep costs down and ensure successful legacy planning.
The EC visits to both countries will be conducted with increased transparency, Dubi insisted, in contrast to previous bid cycles.
Past EC visits – including the most recent to Los Angeles and Paris in 2017 for the 2024 Games – were more rigid with limited media access to the IOC team during inspections.
But Dubi emphasized “we want to make sure that this a communication that unifies the view of the committee,” he said, indicating that most communication would come from Morariu.
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.