Sapporo’s plans to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games seem set to switch tracks for a bid for the 2030 edition instead to better accommodate public opinion and infrastructure readiness, it was revealed Monday in Japan.
The crucial Shinkansen bullet train link is expected to be delivered to the Hokkaido Capital after 2026 but in time for the 2030 edition of the Games, providing critical transportation improvements to the region and making the bid more viable. Local public opinion polls support the date change for the bid.
“By 2030 they will be ready to a degree, so we are currently discussing whether to go forward with our bid for the 2026 Games along with the possibility of looking instead at 2030.” Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said at a press conference, stressing that no final plans had been made to change the date.
“Sapporo’s urban development is unlikely to be fully ready by 2026,” he added.
It’s also believed that vying for a third straight Olympic Winter Games in East Asia (PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022), and only six years past the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games may to too aggressive.
Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) officials acknowledged concerns but stopped short of endorsing any plans.
“We have heard (from Sapporo officials) that the city would have a better-prepared environment in 2030,” Japanese Olympic Chief Tsunekazu Takeda said at the press conference.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) however may consider a move a threat to its 2026 plans, where the Sapporo bid has been considered a reliable alternative to six other projects that may not make it to the finish line.
Sion in Switzerland and Calgary in Canada must a face public votes before their bids can move forward, and a petition in being circulated in Graz, Austria to push for a vote there. Stockholm in Sweden and a bid from either Cortina d’Ampezzo, Turin or Milan in Italy are still seeking government approvals to proceed.
A further bid from Erzurum, Turkey has less obstacles – but with less developed Winter Sports infrastructure and heightened security risks near the Syrian border – the region is less appetizing for the IOC.
The IOC will winnow down the list to only qualified candidates at a meeting in October and elect a winning city September 2019.
If Sapporo switches to 2030, it may face an even stronger field with the United States already committed to entering the race, possibly with 2002 host city Salt Lake City, and 1992 host city Lillehammer in Norway has also indicated interest.
Sapporo last hosted the Winter Games in 1972 and Japan’s Nagano hosted in 1998.