With a March 31 application deadline looming, Norway has again hinted at submitting a bid to host either the 2026 or 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games centred in Lillehammer.
“I can confirm that Lillehammer again wants to stand as an organizer to a new Olympic Games. The new rules for the [International Olympic Committee] (IOC) mean we can offer a low-cost Olympic Games where we bring large parts of Norway,” Lillehammer Mayor Espen Granberg Johnsen said Thursday.
A project presented by Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg has proposed an estimated 20 billion krone (USD $2.57 billion) plan to host the Games in 2026 or 2030 across a broad footprint that includes Lillehammer and Telemark – a region in Southern Norway that hinted at a bid last October.
Heiberg said the IOC will contribute over 7 million krone (USD $900 million) and a government guarantee of about 10 billion krone will be required, adding that because most venues are already built, most of the construction necessary can be privately funded.
According to local reports further study will be required this spring to vet plans, but a letter of interest is required by the IOC by March 31 in order to qualify for the 2026 race. Norwegian officials are also considering a 2030 bid instead when the United States is expected to forward a candidate and 2002 host Salt Lake City has become a favourite.
The Norwegian Olympic Committee (NOK) will need to determine which Games to pursue within the next few days knowing that the IOC is leaning towards a European host city in 2026, making that edition a greater opportunity for Lillehammer.
Lillehammer previously hosted a successful 1994 Olympic Winter Games, but a subsequent bid by Norway’s Capital Oslo for the 2022 edition of the Games was cancelled when the ruling federal government party forced an end to the campaign when it refused to provide risky financial guarantees amid public pushback against the IOC’s lavish requirements.
It was the fourth European city to exit that race for similar reasons, leaving Beijing to defeat the only remaining rival Almaty to win the right host the Games.
New IOC rules have changed the conditions for hosting the Games and officials hope the public will change their opinions as well. With all sports venues already built, the costs will be low.
At the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games last month, Norway led the medals table with a total of 39 including 14 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze.
Already in the race are Sion, Switzerland that must face a risky referendum in June; Calgary in Canada that still seeks City Council approval in June; Stockholm in Sweden that requires several government endorsements and Sapporo in Japan – an unlikely third-straight Asian Winter Games host city that could be a last resort for the IOC should the other options dissolve.
Lillehammer hosted the second Youth Winter Olympics in 2016. The IOC will invite qualified interested cities to enter candidacies in October and will elect the winning 2026 host city September 2019 in Milan, Italy.