Sapporo, one of seven cities to have expressed interest in bidding for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games – has reportedly set its sights on the 2030 Games instead, according to local Japanese sources.
Several Japanese news outlets including Kyodo News said Thursday, Sapporo officials have indicated to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) that the city would prefer to bid for the 2030 Games, and talks between the two are set to occur shortly.
Sapporo Mayor Akimoto Katsuhiro is said to be prepared to address the change in City Council this month.
Sapporo’s Sports Affairs Bureau Toshiya Ishikawa hinted at the possible change last month in an interview with Kyodo News when he said there was internal interest in changing the timetable to the later date, which would align the Games with the delivery of the Hokkaido Shinkansen high-speed rail line to the city.
The JOC has not confirmed the rumors.
Sapporo is considered one of the favorite bids in the 2026 race because of its legacy from the 1972 Games held in the city and it represents a politically and economically stable option for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It could also be the last viable bid standing, a backstop for the IOC.
Both bids from Sion in Switzerland and Calgary in Canada face public votes later this year that could end those campaigns. The Communist Party in Austria is petitioning for a referendum over a bid from Graz – that after Innsbruck was defeated with a similar vote last year. One potential bid from Stockholm in Sweden and another from among Turin, Milan and Cortina D’Ampezzo in Italy still need government approvals that may not be forthcoming.
That leaves a project from Erzurum in Turkey, a non-traditional winter sport region that would present additional risks to the IOC, including security.
IOC President Thomas Bach has indicated that he wants the 2026 edition of the Games to be in a more “traditional” region, following two consecutive Games in East Asia with the PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022 events. Should one of the more traditional cities remain in the race, Sapporo in 2026 would be a long shot. If not – Sapporo would be an important safety net for the IOC.
Bids from the United States and Lillehammer in Norway have already expressed firm interest in hosting in 2030, so a delay by Sapporo may diminish its chances to host the Games next decade.
The IOC will invite qualified cities to continue with their bids at a Session in Buenos Aires in October. The winning city will be declared in September 2019.