The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tuesday confirmed that bids to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games from Calgary in Canada, Stockholm in Sweden and a jointly between Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy have been approved as candidates.
At the IOC’s 133rd Session in Buenos Aires coinciding with the Youth Olympic Games, members of the IOC voted by show of hands to ratify the Executive Board decision that had been announced last week.
The decision sets up a near repeat of the 1988 bid race when Calgary defeated a Swedish bid from Falun, and Cortina d’Ampezzo on the three city ballot.
The IOC has also agreed to change the date and location of the final election to June 23, 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Session was originally scheduled for a September date in Milan, but since Italy is an official candidate, the venue had to be moved to comply with the Olympic Charter.
Erzurum, the Turkish city that was also in the running after expressing interest by the April deadline, was not invited to move forward. An evaluation report noted that the timing was bad for the city that would require significant investment “in general infrastructure such as accommodation, transport, energy and telecoms,” according to a statement.
Seven cities had originally applied to host in 2026 but earlier this year Graz in Austria pulled out of the race when it lost government consensus on the project, Sion in Switzerland abandoned plans when it lost a canton-wide referendum, and Sapporo in Japan opted instead to bid for the 2030 Games after a destructive earthquake in the region.
The remaining cities have issues of their own.
Calgary’s bid will be tested in a city-wide plebiscite November 13 that could end the project if lost.
Stockholm is still looking for government support and guarantees for plans that are due into the IOC on January 11, but it will be a challenge getting commitments from Sweden’s currently hung Parliament.
Italy’s bid requires further organization and municipal approvals to move forward – and the joint Milan-Cortina project lost national government funding last month which may be a concern for the IOC.
Last week IOC President claimed there was no “plan b” should the remaining cities fall out of the race, adding “we will not enter into this kind of speculation.”
An IOC statement lauded the existing legacies from the 1988 Games available in Calgary, identifying them as a key strength. It said a Stockholm 2026 Olympics would elevate and energize the Games experience.
For the joint Milan-Cortina project, the IOC said the project will “combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps.”
IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch said Tuesday that the bids “are extraordinary and they are here because of the New Norm,” referring to the new cost-savings reforms introduced in February.
“They have been able to make projects that make sense for the communities.
“People might say we only have three candidate cities, but they are extraordinary. I say three is plenty.
“Without these reforms we might have been sitting here without any candidates.
“Any of the three would be a very trustworthy partner for us.”
Samaranch, however, said there have been challenges getting the message across to constituents in cities vying to host the Games.
“We need to make a huge effort in explaining ourselves better.”