Majority support Sapporo 2030 Winter Olympics bid according to new preliminary poll

Residents in Sapporo and across Hokkaido prefecture have indicated support for Japan’s 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid according to the results of a new poll released by government officials Wednesday.

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 the survey published March 14, 52 percent of postal mail respondents are either “in favor” or “somewhat in favor” of “holding the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Hokkaido and Sapporo” while 39 percent are “opposed” or “somewhat opposed.”  An online survey revealed 57 percent in favor and 26 opposed while a street survey conducted among movie-goers showed 65 percent support and 26 percent in opposition to a Games.

Pollsters caution that the results from the survey taken beginning March 2 and including respondents from 13,875 people across all three methods are “preliminary” and further details are to be released in April that could include minor numerical changes.  Additional survey questions and results will also be delivered at that time.

Few details about the methodology of the poll, or the accuracy of the results have been disclosed.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto embraced the favorable result at a press conference and dismissed any requirement for a referendum over the bid.

“There are no plans to hold a referendum on the Olympics and Paralympics,” Akimoto confirmed.

This news will ease concerns of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that yet another strong Winter Olympic bid could vaporize over public pushback.  Losing bid referendums have become commonplace over the past decade with many citizens worried about the escalating costs and risks surrounding the Games.  Calgary in Canada;  Sion, Davos and St. Moritz in Switzerland; and Innsbruck and Graz in Austria all lost bids for the 2026 Games after being defeated in referendums.

“We have gained a certain level of support” Akimoto said about the survey.

“We’ll continue dialogue with citizens and boost efforts to dispel their concerns.

“We’ll seek cooperation from relevant organizations in order to take the next step.”

Last week Sapporo released a draft outline of the bid on its city website and over the past months organizers have conducted public consultation with workshops and student engagement in schools.

Sapporo withdrew a bid to host the 2026 Games after Hokkaido was devastated by an earthquake in 2018.  When the city later raised its hand for 2030, it was considered a frontrunner in the race.  But the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the bid and forced postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games that were staged instead in 2021 without spectators or foreign visitors.

As a result, Japanese public opinion on a Sapporo 2030 Games has wavered between aversion to risking it all again and an opportunity for redemption.

The IOC has updated its hosting rules with more opportunities to cut costs, allowing Sapporo to price the bid below 2026 plans with a new 280 billion yen to 300 billion yen (USD$2.4 billion to USD$2.6 billion) estimate range.

Sapporo already hosted the Winter Games in 1972, and its current rivals for 2026 are all seeking a second edition.

Salt Lake City in the United States hosted in 2002 and is now campaigning to stage again in 2030 or 2034 using mostly venues that already exist as a legacy.  Vancouver in Canada presented the 2010 edition and hope to organize a 2030 Games led by indigenous First Nations.

Barcelona hosted the Summer Games in 1992 and a joint Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030 Winter Games would make the city only the second to host both seasonal versions of the Olympics following Beijing’s accomplishment of that last month.  The Spanish bid has been embroiled in political infighting, and unlike Sapporo it will be facing a binding referendum in the spring.

Ukraine had been seeking to host an Olympics for the first time in 2030 but plans announced last year by President Volodomyr Zelensky have been suspended due to the ongoing Russian invasion.  Lviv in Ukraine similarly canceled a bid to host in 2026 when Russia commenced an occupation of Crimea in 2014.

The IOC has no set timetable for the election of the 2030 host.  Under a process launched in 2019 a Future Host Commission engages interested parties in ongoing dialogue and selects a preferred candidate once the right partner is found.  That bid can be named any time and would then require further due diligence, the approval from the IOC Executive Board and finally a rubberstamping from the full IOC Membership before being elected host.

The next Winter Olympics will be hosted by Italy’s Milan-Cortina in 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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