Sapporo’s 2030 Winter Olympics bid doubtful after re-elected JOC President says it will be “quite hard”

Sapporo’s 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid became more doubtful Thursday after the re-election of Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita who had previously indicated he could only support a campaign for an edition in 2034 or beyond.

10th January 2020: New IOC member Yasuhiro Yamashita, President of the Japanese Olympic Committee during the 135th IOC Session which was held at the Swiss Tech in Lausanne. Photograph by Christophe Moratal/IOC
IOC member Yasuhiro Yamashita, President of the Japanese Olympic Committee during the 135th IOC Session which was held at the Swiss Tech in Lausanne, Switzelrand (Photo: Christophe Moratal/IOC)

Elected to a two year term, Yamashita repeated his concerns about Sapporo’s continued efforts to host the 2030 Games amid public outrage over bid rigging indictments connected to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

“Under the current circumstances, 2030 will be quite hard,” Yamashita said during a press conference following his re-election, according to Kyodo News.

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) highly regards Japan’s ability to manage sporting events but attaches great importance to the approval rating of each host candidate,” he added, alluding to the rapid drop in the bid’s support since polling early in 2022 that revealed over 60 percent support in the Hokkaido Province.

At the time, Sapporo was the frontrunner in a 2030 race that included Vancouver and Barcelona. But after the scandal made headlines only weeks later, support plummeted to as low as two-thirds of Sapporo resident against the project. Both Vancouver and Barcelona dropped out for political reasons and have now been replaced with interest from Sweden and Switzerland.

If those options don’t pan out, Salt Lake City officials say they will step up and deliver the earlier Games instead of the 2034 edition they continue to target.

Sapporo City officials remain hopeful for a 2030 bid supported by newly re-elected Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto who campaigned with a pro-Olympic platform. This week the city presented a plan to establish a third-party body to monitor a potential Olympic bid and organizing committee with the goal of preventing scandals like that of Tokyo 2020, and an initial interim report is expected next month that will detail opinions of outside experts.

A recent survey showed that the collapse in public support has somewhat subsided with as many as 50 percent in Hokkaido now interested in an Olympic bid, a small uptick. The IOC said earlier this month that as many as six regions are involved in discussions on hosting a future Games and that they hope to establish targeted dialogue with one or more parties in the final quarter of this year leading to a final election in July 2024.

The IOC is also considering awarding the 2034 Games at the same time, or establishing a permanent pool of host cites for the foreseeable future.

In order for any bid to move forward it must get the full support of its National Olympic Committee, in Sapporo’s case the JOC.

But Yamashita seems more interested on restoring public trust rather than diving in for a quick follow-up Games.

“Trust in the Olympics is declining,” he said. “It’s necessary to have a legacy that takes root and makes people think in 10 years’ time or 20 years’ time, it was good to host the Tokyo Olympics.”

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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