Sapporo 2030 slashes proposed budget hoping to win back Winter Olympics supporters ahead of public survey

Organizers of the Sapporo 2030 Winter Olympics bid answered reports from last week suggesting that the proposed Games budget would be slashed to make it a more appealing project.  On Monday Katsuhiro Akimoto, the mayor of the Hokkaido region capital, announced cuts of about a quarter compared to a preliminary budget first unveiled ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

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)

The price of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Games held this year in Japan skyrocketed above estimates and revenues fell short due to COVID-19 restrictions that barred spectators from attending events in-person.  Sapporo staged the marathon and race walk events even as public opinion polls were clear that the Japanese population wanted the Games cancelled.

But officials are proposing a more frugal Games for 2030 that would leverage existing venues for up 92 percent of the needed facilities, many that were built for the Sapporo 1972 Winter Olympics.  Some of the aging venues will require major renovations ahead of the possible Games.

It is hoped the revised budget will win back approval for the project ahead of a planned public survey next year that will gauge the appetite for another Olympics in Japan.

The new 280 billion yen to 300 billion yen (USD$2.4 billion to USD$2.6 billion) price tag confirmed by the mayor is a significant reduction compared to the northern Japanese city’s bid for the 2026 edition of the Games that was expected to cost 453.7 billion yen when proposed 2016.  That bid was cancelled after Hokkaido, the northern island prefecture of which Sapporo is capital, was pummeled by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake causing major infrastructural damage.

The first budget estimate for the 2030 Games calculated in 2019 was between 310 to 370 billion yen (USD$2.7 billion to USD$3.3 billion).

Sapporo was an early frontrunner in the 2030 race after in January 2020 International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach described the potential Games as “excellent”.  But the pandemic has dramatically change the bid landscape and interest in hosting the world’s largest multi-sport event.

A project from Salt Lake City in the U.S. has since risen due to unwavering strong public and political support and a wealth of existing venues that are ready for competition.  The Utah bid members will virtually attend a high-level online meeting with the IOC next week that is expected to move plans forward significantly, and a follow-up in-person gathering could take place as early as February following the Beijing 2022 Winter Games

The Salt Lake City bid has yet to confirm whether it will target 2030 or 2034.  The committee prefers the earlier date but there are concerns that following the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games only 18 months earlier could crowd out important domestic sponsorship and marketing opportunities.

Potential bids from Pyrenees-Barcelona in Spain, Vancouver in Canada and Ukraine are also in the mix but with less developed plans.

The IOC has no set timetable for selecting a host city and could announce a preferred candidate at any time.

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.