IOC delays election of 2030 Winter Olympics host until at least September 2023, possibly impacting candidate timelines

Interested bidders representing Sapporo, Salt Lake City and Vancouver will have to wait at least four additional months to learn where the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be hosted after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opted to reschedule its 2023 all-members Session where the decision will be taken.

Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzlerland (IOC Photo)
Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland (IOC Photo)

The IOC Executive Board announced the new plans Thursday when it put India’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) on notice for failing to meet required standards of an NOC. The Session had been awarded to Mumbai, India in March 2020, but more recently the NOC has dealt with internal disputes and governance issues including a missed required leadership election. The IOC Executive Board will review the NOCs compliance at a December 2022 meeting and could issue a suspension should requirements remain unmet.

In the meantime, the Executive Board moved the meeting until September or October of next year and will be forced to relocate it if the suspension, barring India from all Olympic activities, is dealt.

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams confirmed that the 2030 Winter Games host election will also be rescheduled accordingly, telling reporters “the decision will be taken at that Session wherever it will be in 2023.”

The IOC is “looking at finding another opportunity for the time being,” he added referring to a new location should India be suspended.

Earlier this year IOC President Thomas Bach said candidates for the 2030 election would be named by the Executive Board in December in order to be ready for the previously set May 31 Session. On Thursday, Adams couldn’t confirm whether that timeline would be delayed as well.

“The process of continuous dialogue allows us to start targeted dialogue when the timing is right,” Adams said on the selection of final candidates, adding that the new bid process is flexible.

“I don’t see it as a major disruption at all, it is a very short postponement.”

Adams said that the bidders would be briefed by the IOC on the evolving situation and timing.

With the delay of the Session, the Executive Board could instead choose candidates at its quarterly meeting that will be held as early as March 2023 – it was originally scheduled to be held in May in conjunction with the Session. That would give the IOC and its Future Host Commission enough time to vet the finalists before the vote.

A delay would likely be welcome news to the bid from British Columbia, Canada. The indigenous-led project to bring the Games back to the Vancouver area has faced timing issues with federal and provincial partners who are not ready to approve the bid quickly. Municipal elections will be held on October 15 and there remains a possibility of a plebiscite for the public to weigh in on the decision – all factors that make a December timeline difficult.

For Sapporo, a delay could help distance the Japanese bid from the negativity of recent Tokyo 2020 bribery allegations.  An organizing committee member has been accused of taking payments from potential sponsors for preferential treatment and that news is making headlines across the nation, souring public support for the Winter Games.

The scandal forced Sapporo’s Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) to make a declaration Thursday, pledging to clarify the Sapporo 2030 policy on the handling of conflicts of interests and the decision-making processes for advertising and marketing operations.

On Tuesday Akimoto canceled a planned mid-September visit to IOC headquarters in Lausanne but Adams dismissed the issue as a scheduling problem. Local media had reported that a Sapporo 2030 source blamed the cancelation on the ongoing scandal.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has yet to confirm whether it will target the 2030 or 2034 Games with Salt Lake City, but has hinted that the latter edition is most likely.

Earlier this year a joint Spanish bid from Barcelona and the Pyrenees was abandoned when it couldn’t overcome internal politics and venue planning reached a stalemate.

With limited choices, the IOC might serve itself well by giving interested bidders additional time to organize.

The next Winter Games are to be held in Italy by Milan-Cortina 2026.

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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