Delegates representing 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bids Milano-Cortina in Italy and Stockholm in Sweden presented their projects to the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly in Tokyo Wednesday.
Amid a collapsing Olympic bid race, that for 2026 has already seen five of seven applicants exit early, the two remaining bids face a lack of government support at home. The 20-minute ANOC presentations represented the first important opportunity to sell plans to key Olympic stakeholders and influencers, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) members.
Italy seeks its third Winter Games following editions staged in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Turin in 2006. Sweden is seeking its first-ever Winter Games.
The Italian delegation was comprised of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) President Giovanni Malago along with Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, President of Veneto (region representing Cortina) Luca Zaia and Arianna Fontana who was Italy’s flagbearer at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games.
Sala indirectly addressed his national government’s refusal to provide funding for a Games by pointing to the combined wealth of Lombardy and Veneto, the two regions backing the project, and the public support in Milan said to be at 83 percent according to an IOC poll.
“We see the chance to host the Winter Games as helping our development trajectory,” Sala said.
Zaia had a similar perspective explaining “these Winter Olympic Games are not a problem for us, they are an opportunity.”
Turin was excluded from an original three city concept after the Mayors disagreed over the leadership of the project, and how it would be organized. That triggered the Italian government’s withdrawal of promised funding. Current Plans include the use of 93 percent existing venues, and a major renovation to the Cortina sliding track. Venues in Turin may still be considered as options.
Stockholm’s presentation was anchored by influential Swede Gunilla Lindberg who is a member of the IOC’s Executive Board and who led the coordination commission to deliver the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
Up until the presentation, Lindberg had been unusually silent about Stockholm’s bid which is currently struggling to secure government support at both the municipal and national levels. She was joined on the podium by Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) President Mats Årjes, bid CEO Richard Brisius and two-time Olympic ice hockey medalist Kim Martin Hasson.
Lindberg told the Assembly “I believe our bid represents the best opportunity for the Olympic Movement, not only for 2026, but also for the Olympic Winter Games thereafter.”
“Our plan is sensible, responsible and sustainable.
“It will also provide an excellent true Olympic Games experience.”
Årjes added “we feel it offers you something bold, something new and, I can personally promise you, something fun.”
The IOC could be facing the least competitive bid process seen in decades, as cities continue to reject the costs and risks of hosting the event. Both Italy and Sweden could fail to receive the government guarantees that they require to host the Games, even as the IOC has hinted it could extend a January 11 deadline to have signatures in place. There is risk that the IOC might lose all candidates ahead of the June host city election.
New reforms introduced by the IOC including Olympic Agenda 2020 and “The New Norm” have so far been ineffective in attracting potential host cities. But Stockholm’s Brisius offered hope.
“Our plan reflects the IOC’s new reality, which is use what you have, where you have it, and build as little as possible,” Brisius said
“It means the future is bright.
“It means you have a Games concept, you have a city, you have a team and you have a whole country that you can trust to deliver what the Olympic Movement needs right now.”
In Stockholm, however, a new city coalition government said it will not back the Games – even if the project is privately funded as bid officials have suggested. Meetings between the SOK and Stockholm’s city government are scheduled to be held in December.
Stockholm 2026 is proposing the use of existing venues across a region including in Are, Falun and a sliding track in Sigulda, Latvia. This will help keep costs low, but governments will still be on the hook for supporting essential services including costly security budgets.
Beijing is set to host the next Winter Games in 2022 after the Chinese capital was awarded the opportunity by defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2015. Four European cities dropped out of that race before the election was held.