The Race Is On: Swedish Government To Guarantee Stockholm-Åre 2026 Winter Olympic Bid

The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) Tuesday morning was notified that the Swedish government will provide guarantees needed by the Stockholm-Åre 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid for it to stay in the race with rival Italian bid Milan-Cortina.

Stockholm-Åre 2026 CEO Richard Brisius stands beside bid banner at side-entrance to Lugnet Nordic Complex in Falun, Sweden March 14, 2019. It was a rare appearance of promotional material in Sweden (GamesBids Photo)

Stockholm-Åre 2026 CEO Richard Brisius stands beside bid banner at side-entrance to Lugnet Nordic Complex in Falun, Sweden March 14, 2019. (GamesBids Photo)

Bid Chief Richard Brisius told GamesBids.com Tuesday by telephone “we feel energized,” on the positive news from the government that had so far held off agreeing to commit funds and guarantees necessary for the bid to move forward.

“It wasn’t unexpected,” he said.

“We’ve had an ongoing discussion for a long time as you know but it’s only when there’s an announcement that you know it’s happening, so it’s definitely another significant milestone for our bid.”

“We are happy.”

Swedish Minister of Culture Amanda Lind said on Swedish TV4 “It can be a boost for the entire sports Sweden.  That’s why it’s fun to be able to give this message.”

“It would be great for Sweden if it there was an Olympic Games.”

Lind last month had promised an announcement on potential funding before the IOC set deadline of April 12.

An official announcement is expected by the government soon

Peter Reinebo of the SOK said Tuesday “These Games will not hit the taxpayers, but add the taxpayers.”

Stockholm Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr, who leads a coalition government that has vowed not to support the Games in her city, was positive on the news.  She said in a press release from her Green-Blue party majority that has opposed the bid “I welcome the government’s message to enter into financial guarantees for security.”

“The city welcomes major international arrangements and will, on market terms, rent out our facilities and lend the necessary land.

“The important thing is that a possible Winter Olympics 2026 does not burden Stockholm’s taxpayers.”

In a statement, the Green-Blue wrote “the City of Stockholm will, however, not allocate any financial or personnel resources, or otherwise shoulder any formal responsibility for hosting or to arrange such Winter games, if they would be arranged in Sweden in 2026.”

Sweden's Sport Minister Amanda Lind speaks to IOC Evaluation Commission March 15, 2019 (GamesBids Photo)

Sweden’s Sport Minister Amanda Lind speaks to IOC Evaluation Commission March 15, 2019 (GamesBids Photo)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and SOK last month seemed to accept the Mayor’s offer to lease city-owned facilities for the Games, when she announced the plan at a meeting with the visiting IOC Evaluation Commission led by Octavian Morariu.

With guarantees in place that ensure things like security, visa support, essential services and health and human rights protection will be in place for the Games, Stockholm-Åre 2026 will be clear to be added to the final ballot when the IOC elects a winner on June 24 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The bid has forecast a budget of USD $1.63 billion, leaving an expected surplus after costs of $40,000.  This is possible, according to the bid, because most venues have already been built and facilities are being leveraged across the country – and in Sigulda, Latvia where a sliding track is located.

Venues are proposed in four clusters – ice events would be staged in Stockholm, Alpine ski events in Åre, and Nordic events in Falun.  Bobsleigh, skeleton and luge will be in Sigulda.

Last week Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins pledged support for the Games in a letter to the Latvian Olympic Committee.

On Friday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte provided a signed guarantee letter supporting the rival Milan-Cortina bid and promising up to USD $466 million to fulfill requirements.  That news briefly catapulted the Italian bid to the front of the race, but the news from Sweden will even it out again, perhaps even nudging Sweden ahead.

Sweden is one of the most successful Winter Olympic sports nations never to have hosted the event, and the IOC has indicated a strong desire to hold the Games in the Northern European nation.

However, low public support could be an issue for the bid after a February poll commissioned by the IOC and taken by Publicis showed that 55 percent across Sweden support the bid, 17 percent are opposed to the project and 28 percent “don’t know”.  A similar poll showed 83 percent across Italy support the Milan-Cortina Games.

Stockholm Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr (left) meets IOC Evaluation Commission Chair Octavian Morariu at bid presentation March 15, 2019 (GamesBids Photo)

Stockholm Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr (left) meets IOC Evaluation Commission Chair Octavian Morariu at bid presentation March 15, 2019 (GamesBids Photo)

Brisius told GamesBids.com that Stockholm-Åre 2026 will step up the campaign in the remaining weeks, “we will always do our best and our team has grown even stronger now with the government officially and fully behind us as part of the team.”

“The only think that really matters are the votes on the 24th of June, it’s the IOC members who decide so we will be providing any necessary information that they need to give them the best chance to vote.”

The IOC will release an evaluation report May 24 outlining its findings from site visits to Sweden in March and Italy earlier this month.

The news from Sweden will provide relief for the IOC after it failed to retain five of the seven original candidates in this now two-country 2026 race.  Amid the public push back of Olympic bids due to costs, risks and fears of corruption – the government support from two strong European bids helps validate the IOC’s new reforms on efficiency and sustainability.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil