Russia’s Ufa considers 2030 Winter Olympics bid amid WADA ban

The capital of the Russian region of Bashkortostan, Ufa, is mulling a possible bid to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games.

Russia competes at Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games

Russia competes at Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games (Photo: Russian Olympic Committee)

With a population of about 4.5 million the region is situated between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains in eastern European Russia.  Russian state news agency TASS reported that the region’s press relations officer Diana Ikhsanova discussed the idea that remains in a very early stage.

She said “There really is such an idea, but only an idea.  Until the application campaign has begun, we are working on the possibility of submitting an application.”

Russia is currently serving a two-year suspension from all Olympic activities handed down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after it was found officials manipulated data from a Moscow testing lab.  Violations stemmed from charges of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy carried out during the Sochi 2014 Winter Games – the last time Russia hosted the event.

The suspension, scheduled to expire at the end of 2022, prohibits Russian candidacies for major world sport events including the Olympics.

But Vitaly Smirnov, honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and honorary president of the Russian Olympic Committee says he supports the idea of ​​an application from the Bashkortostan region – and claims the WADA suspension will not be an issue.

“If the region agrees, then why not, the vote will take place seven years before the 2030 Games, the sanctions will end by 2023,” he said.

“The list of candidates will be announced next year,” he added.

IOC Future Host Commission for Winter Games Chair Octavian Moraiu addresses IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland January 10, 2020 (Photo: Christophe Moratal/IOC)

IOC Future Host Commission for Winter Games Chair Octavian Moraiu addresses IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland January 10, 2020 (Photo: Christophe Moratal/IOC)

Contrary to Smirnov’s claims, there is no set timetable for the election of the 2030 host city.  In 2019 the IOC voted to abandon the old bid process, including the seven year election rule, in favor of a less structured process that hands most of the decision-making power to future host commissions and the IOC Executive Board.

Under the new rules, prospective bids enter into an official dialogue with the IOC with the latter having the ability to single out a final candidate whenever they consider the timing to be right.  In January, before the coronavirus pandemic halted most bidding activity and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed for a year, IOC President Thomas Bach hinted that the selection of a host from among candidates Sapporo in Japan, Pyrenees-Barcelona in Spain and Salt Lake City in the United States could happen quickly.

Now there is further interest from 2010 host city Vancouver in Canada and 2026 bidder Lviv in Ukraine.

Coronavirus has since softened the race and cooled the urgency of electing a winner with President Bach admitting that his focus is now on successfully delivering Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 amid the pandemic.  Both Sapporo and Spain have stepped back to instead deal with their own COVID-19 struggles while Vancouver and Salt Lake City have deferred any decisions to later this year.

It is expected, however, that the 2030 bid campaigns will be well underway before the sanctions have been lifted from Russia.  Timing and circumstances are clearly not on the side of a Bashkortostan Olympic bid, and with Russia’s interest also in proposing St. Petersburg or Kazan for a future Summer Games it seems an Ufa Olympics is unlikely.

About Robert Livingstone

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.