Almost half of Sapporo voters oppose 2030 Winter Olympics bid ahead of Mayoral election

Sapporo’s fading hopes of hosting a second Winter Olympics in 2030 were dealt another blow this week when almost half of the respondents to a poll in the northern Japanese city said they do not want the Games to return.

Niseko Ski Resort, About 100 km from Sapporo, could host Alpine events at 2030 Olympic Winter Games (Niseko Resort Photo)
Niseko Ski Resort, About 100 km from Sapporo, could host Alpine events at 2030 Olympic Winter Games (Niseko Resort Photo)

According to a telephone poll completed April 2 by newspaper Asahi Shimbun, 47 percent in the Hokkaido capital do not want to host the Winter Games in 2030 while only 38 percent of the 784 respondents support the plan. Meanwhile, a similar poll conducted across Japan in March revealed 60 percent support for hosting the Games.

The 2030 Games were considered Sapporo’s to lose a year ago when a government poll suggested that around 60 percent were behind the bid, enough for city officials to reject any notion that a referendum would be required. But just weeks later the Tokyo 2020 corruption scandal emerged and grew, souring public opinion in its wake. Prosecutors indicted international sports marketing and advertising powerhouse Dentsu, a company that would likely be integral in Sapporo 2030 plans, further complicating the bid’s path forward. In December the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) hit pause on the bid in order to regroup amid the chaos.

JOC officials still claim that a 2030 bid will eventually proceed. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has since delayed the bid race for at least another year, claiming that it needs time to reinvestigate the site selection process due to climate concerns. But without Sapporo the IOC had no willing candidates to move forward after Vancouver, Canada was denied necessary provincial funding and Barcelona in Spain withdrew due to internal political differences. Salt Lake City remains a possible fall back choice but all stakeholders would prefer the Utah capital to host in 2034 so as not to interfere with the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games also in the United States.

More than 80 percent support Salt Lake City’s bid for a second Winter Games.

Sapporo’s bid will face a de-facto referendum April 9 when the city elects its Mayor. Incumbent Katsuhiro Akimoto is a strong supporter of the bid and is seeking his third term, but he will be challenged by two anti-Olympic candidates Kaoru Takano and Hideo Kibata – both who could call for the end of the bid if victorious.

According to the Asahi Shimbun poll, 56 percent said they would factor in the candidates’ position on the Olympic bid when they cast their ballots while 33 percent said it would have no bearing on their choice.

Meanwhile 79 percent felt that a full referendum should be held to approve the bid while only nine percent said a public vote would not be necessary.

The IOC is in the process of defining climate criteria necessary for future Winter Games hosts and could use that to change the way sites are chosen. The Future Host Commission is mulling the possibility of jointly awarding the 2030 and 2034 editions and could also consider a permanent pool of rotating hosts. These decisions could be approved at the next IOC Session planned for October in Mumbai, India. Following that, Games could be awarded as soon as the IOC Session ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics in July.

IOC officials claim this new long term roadmap is bringing more bids to the table, with more than six already on a growing but confidential list of regions involved in continuous dialogue. Last month Sweden announced it had launched a feasibility study while last week Swiss Olympic said it had officially asked the IOC to enter talks.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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