Sapporo in Japan has dropped its bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to instead shift focus on earthquake recovery efforts. Officials say the city will now organize a bid for the 2030 edition of the Games.
The decision was made after a meeting at International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne among representatives of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), the City of Sapporo, and the IOC.
“The IOC expressed its understanding that recovery from the earthquake in the region should be the immediate principle focus but greatly appreciated the continued strong commitment as a future host for the Olympic Winter Games,” and IOC statement read.
“The IOC once again expressed its sympathy for the victims and families of all those effected by the recent earthquake in Hokkaido, Japan which has left 41 dead and caused considerable damage, with many still in temporary shelters.
“For this reason, the city of Sapporo, the Japanese National Olympic Committee and the IOC agreed today that the IOC would not put Sapporo on the list of candidates for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, but to continue with the close dialogue already underway fort he Olympic Winter Games 2030.”
Sapporo had been considering delaying the bid until 2030 and announcing the move next month, but damage from the September 6 magnitude 6.7 earthquake in the region that caused 41 casualties and widespread power outages prompted the earlier move.
Discussion about a possible shift from 2026 to 2030 emerged earlier this year when a survey among residents revealed a preference to host the latter edition. A high speed rail link to the city has been planned for 2031, but organizers are hoping to move that to 2030 making it valuable infrastructure ahead of a possible Games.
Sapporo was planning to leverage experience and facilities from the 2017 Asian Winter Games, and the last time the city hosted the Olympics in 1972. But the 2026 bid had been criticized as a possible third-straight Winter Olympics from East Asia and IOC officials have been eyeing a 2026 Games in the West.
There is already a line-up forming for the 2030 Games including Salt Lake City in the United States, Lillehammer in Norway and Barcelona in Spain – even as the 2026 race continues to crumble.
Seven cities entered the 2026 race in March but already three cities – including Sion in Switzerland and Graz in Austria have cancelled their plans. Left in the race are Calgary in Canada, Stockholm in Sweden, a joint bid among three cities in Italy, and a project from Erzurum in Turkey.
All face unique hurdles leading up the the October 8 shortlist announcement by the IOC, including a scheduled November 13 referendum in Calgary and missing government approvals in Stockholm and Italy.
With no guarantees that a viable bid will remain in the running, the IOC may be considering a plan ‘b’, which could include a city not currently in the race. The 2002 Olympic host Salt Lake City, already considered the 2030 front runner, was left out of the 2026 race because U.S. city Los Angeles is already hosting the Summer Games in 2028.
GamesBids.com understands, however, that the Utah capital could be available to step in should the need arise.
For the 2022 Games, four European cities dropped out of the competition leaving only Beijing to defeat Almaty in Kazakhstan for the right to host.
The IOC will elect a winner in September 2019.