Sapporo’s bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is expected to be dropped next week, local Japanese reports confirmed Thursday.
Instead, officials from the city will refocus on a campaign to host in 2030 and will work to hurry the delivery of a critical rail line to the region that is currently scheduled for a 2031 deployment.
Sources have told Kyodo News that Sapporo Deputy Mayor Takatoshi Machida is expected to tell International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach about the intention to drop the 2026 bid at a meeting in the IOC’s Lausanne headquarters Monday. Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Tsunekazu Takeda will join the high-level discussion.
Officials had been planning to make the final decision regarding a possible withdrawal from the race in October when the IOC announces a short list of candidates to move forward, but damage from a September 6 magnitude 6.7 earthquake in the region that caused 41 casualties and widespread power outages prompted the earlier move.
Reports have indicated that the JOC had been keeping Sapporo in the race as long as possible to avoid any loss of goodwill developed for a planned 2030 bid. Japan is already partnering with the IOC to host the Tokyo 2020 Summer 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.
Still, Sapporo’s exit from the race will be a concern for the IOC who are facing a widespread lack of interest from cities willing to host the Games.
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.
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.
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.