Two-thirds oppose Sapporo 2030 Winter Olympic bid new poll reveals, dealing major blow to project

According to a poll released Sunday, an overwhelming two-thirds of Sapporo residents say they oppose the Hokkaido capital’s bid to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, a marked increase form earlier polls.

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)

Last month Japan’s Winter Games bid announced that it would suspend active campaigning to instead spend time conducting a review of the project and the interest of the population. Organizers said that they will poll residents in a referendum if necessary, admitting it would be difficult to move forward without strong support. Last year Sapporo’s city government had ruled out a referendum, then suggesting the results of an informal survey showing as much as 65 percent support was enough to demonstrate interest.

A formal referendum may still be ahead, but preliminary numbers are now in and the results will be disappointing for proponents who want to bring the Games back to Sapporo for a second time. Unless the negative trend can be reversed it is unlikely that the bid will be reactivated.

In a telephone poll performed by the Hokkaido Shimbun from December 16 to 18, 67 percent in the city said they were opposed to hosting the Games with 52 percent fully opposed and 15 percent somewhat opposed. It marks a substantial increase from numbers released by the Asahi Shimbun last September that showed only 38 percent across Japan were against staging the Winter Games.

Across Hokkaido, 61 percent said they were opposed.

The poll, that further reveals only 12 percent “support” and 21 percent “somewhat support” a bid, was taken only two days before Sapporo’s Mayor made the announcement to discontinue “momentum-building activities” surrounding the bid amid the Tokyo 2020 corruption scandal that has made headlines across Japan and around the world.

Sapporo suspends promotion of 2030 Winter Olympics bid to review, and survey public nationwide

Of those surveyed, 23 percent pointed to the ongoing scandal as their reason for rejecting the bid while 48 percent identified costs, suggesting that money should instead be spent on COVID-19 countermeasures and snow removal during this harsher than usual winter. Tokyo’s Games, delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic, went well over its original budget.

Sapporo had been the front runner in the 2030 race even before a Barcelona-based project from Spain dropped out last June due to political differences and a Vancouver-area bid was left in hiatus in October when it failed to secure provincial government funding. With interest from Salt Lake City targeted on hosting in 2034, Sapporo was the only bid in the running.

Aware of reversing public opinion in Japan, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) called a reset to the 2030 race early in December – cancelling a planned fall 2023 host election and extending the process indefinitely, it claimed, to further investigate how to handle future bids amid the climate crisis. The race is now open to new applicants and the IOC Future Host Commission will investigate the possibility of developing a pool of permanent host sites to stage the Games in a rotation. A simultaneous allocation of the 2030 and 2034 Games could also be in the works.

The earliest a host can now be elected is July 2024 when the IOC meets in Session ahead of the Paris Olympics, but no schedule has been set.

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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