Sapporo to slash Games budget for 2030 Winter Olympics bid

Japanese city Sapporo could slash as much as 20 percent from its proposed 2030 Winter Olympics budget to reflect new International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements and increasing criticism over staggering losses from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games held this year.

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 sources contacted by Kyodo news agency, the bid will avoid the construction of new venues that have a minimal after-Games purpose, and reduce the personnel required to run the organizing committee.  The resulting  savings could amount to almost 90 billion yen (USD $790 million) when compared to the budget proposed in 2019 when estimates ran from 310 to 370 billion yen

The new 280 billion yen to 300 billion yen price tag marks an even greater savings compared to the northern Japanese city’s bid for the 2026 edition of the Games that was expected to cost 453.7 billion yen in 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.

Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics but most of the remaining facilities used for those Games are now outdated or insufficient.  Instead, the proposed 2030 event would leverage existing facilities outside of the city including the sliding track in Nagano where the more recent 1998 Winter Games were staged.  Other events would be held in Obihiro to the east.

Earlier this year Sapporo’s Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said a referendum may be required to gauge support for the bid and this month he promised that more detailed plans would be released to the public by the end of November.

Many across Japan have questioned the new bid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic-forced postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games that were staged without in-person spectators resulting in staggering financial losses.  The Games were already well over budget and wrought with scandals.

Sapporo is considered a serious contender in this opaque race that has no pre-set finish line now that the IOC has altered the bid process to a behind-doors dialogue model.

Groups from Salt Lake City, Pyrenees-Barcelona, Vancouver and Ukraine are also engaged in an continuous dialogue to host a future Games that only ends once the IOC Executive Board identifies the project as a preferred candidate, or it drops out.  The IOC’s former head-to-head majority vote wins model has since been abolished in order to save so-called ‘losing’ bids from embarrassment.

Brisbane in Australia was the first city chosen to host the Summer Games under this new model when its selection for 2032 was rubber-stamped by the IOC membership in July.

Salt Lake City had yet to decide whether it will target the 2030 or 2034 Games with the relative timing of the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games a potential concern.

Pyrenees-Barcelona is struggling with contentious regional politics that might force the expanded Pyrenees-Barcelona-Zaragoza name, and the bid will likely face a difficult referendum before it can move forward.

Vancouver’s public support numbers have dropped significantly over the past year as it seems the coronavirus pandemic has watered down interest in the Games.

Ukraine’s President recently announced that his country will pursue a Winter Olympics after being forced to drop a campaign by Lviv to host in 2022.

Last week a presidential contender for the German Olympic Committee said he would consider a Winter Games bid from his nation.

Beijing is set to host the Winter Games in February, Italy’s Milan-Cortina will stage the event in 2026.

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.