A new poll released Tuesday reveals that more people across the Styrian State in Austria support a 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid in Graz and Schladming, than those opposing the project.
The poll, released by Kronen Zeitung shows that 46 percent of respondents over the age of 16 support the plan to bid for the Games, while only 33.1 percent oppose it. A further 20.9 percent were undecided. Of those in favour, 12.7 percent were “absolutely” behind the bid while 33.3 percent would approve it if “costs remain within a framework.”
The results should come as some comfort to bid organizers who had hoped to avoid a referendum over the proposed project, but may still face a public vote. The Austrian Communist Party KPÖ has been collecting signatures for a petition to force a binding referendum since last month, and it has already accumulated more than 4,000 names towards the final goal of 10,000 – enough, the party says, to force the city to consider the request.
A referendum last year ended the previous Austrian bid for the 2026 Games from Innsbruck when over 53 percent voted against an application.
With 64.4 percent in favour of bidding, the strongest support came from the Obersteiermark West region where Schladming is located – the proposed site for many of the snow events at the Games. The Kronen Zeitung report also indicated that the project was popular among young people.
Strong support isn’t necessarily an indicator for a successful Olympic referendum. Polled Hamburg residents in 2015 favoured a bid for the 2024 Summer Games by over 60 percent, but a general referendum on the project was defeated when over 51 percent voted against it. Bids from Krakow, Munich and St. Moritz for the 2022 Winter Games were also defeated in referendums.
The Austrian bid is expected to meet a March 31 International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline to express interest in bidding for the 2026 edition. A final list of candidates will be chosen by the IOC in October and a winning city selected in September 2019.
Sion in Switzerland has been declared as an applicant but must first face a June 10 referendum across the Valais Canton, and possibly a national vote. Calgary is considering a candidacy, but is unlikely to face a public vote over the project.
Stockholm, Sapporo, Erzurum in Turkey and either Turin or Milan in Italy are also in the race.
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.