Why unprecedented 70% public support for Sweden’s bid to host 2030 Winter Olympics is a key boost

A new survey released by the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) Thursday shows widespread national public support for Sweden’s bid to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. According to a statement from the SOK, seven out of 10 Swedes agree that the nation should bid to host its first-ever Winter Games.

Children Ski at Hammarbybacken in Stockholm, proposed venue for Stockholm-Åre 2026 Olympic bid (GamesBids Photo)
Children Ski at Hammarbybacken in Stockholm (GamesBids Photo)

The results are significant and could help cement Sweden’s new frontrunner status in the race if the SOK and other stakeholders agree that a feasibility study shows hosting the Games will be of benefit to the nation.

Sweden last bid for the 2026 edition with Stockholm Åre going down in defeat to Italy’s Milan-Cortina by a vote of 47 to 34. Both had outlasted five other cites – four that withdrew and one that was disqualified by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) evaluation. Following the contentious vote in June 2019, IOC President Thomas Bach blamed Sweden’s poor public support for the loss.

“My assumption is what was key was the gap in public support,” Bach said.

“The 83 percent [for Italy] to 55 percent [Sweden].”

Bach was referring to numbers from an IOC commissioned poll taken earlier that year. Two days before the critical vote a SOK commissioned Kantar poll revealed support had risen to 63 percent. Pollster Kantar was also behind Thursday’s survey that showed 70 percent support among 3,300 respondents across Sweden interviewed from April 4 to 12.

Cities that withdrew from the 2026 race included Calgary in Canada and Sion in Switzerland, both dropping out due to lost referendums. Graz canceled its bid once a referendum was forced by a public petition and the Austrian city had only entered the race as a replacement for Innsbruck that had lost a public vote before the IOC’s application deadline.

Public support, time-and-time again, has been the primary ‘feasibility element’ for successful bids and will now feature in Sweden’s feasibility report that is expected to be completed in July.

Much has changed with the IOC’s hosting requirements since those preliminary numbers were taken in 2019, many of which appeal to Swedes. The IOC has increased their flexibility and advise against any new construction, instead asking that events be staged at venues where they currently exist – even if across borders.

The SOK has engaged with communities in capital Stockholm along with Falun, Åre and Östersund as potential hosts, and sliding sports such as luge are proposed to be held in Sigulda, Latvia where expensive facilities already exist.

These elements are key for new bid supporters, according to the poll.

“The preliminary study has so far concluded that the Olympics and Paralympics should be arranged with existing arenas,” the SOK said.

“New stadiums will not be built. Kantar’s survey shows that this is precisely a prerequisite for the Swedish people to also be more positive than before about the Olympics and Paralympics in 2030.”

According to an SOK statement “during the 50 working days that have passed since the press conference [announcing the bid] on February 8, ten working groups with 30 representatives from SOK, SPK and RF has been created.

“The preliminary study has so far had over 100 meetings with sports, politics, business and civil society.”

Hans von Uthmann was elected SOK President at the General Assembly Thursday and he will oversee the continued work on the feasibility study.  Updates will be provided at the SPK Annual General Meeting on May 13 and at Sweden’s Sport Confederation meeting from May 26 to 28.

“We are good at organizing sports events in Sweden and it is positive that the public now shows confidence in the ability of sports to be a force in the development of sustainability and democracy,” von Uthman said.

“The next step will be to see what the feasibility study shows about the conditions that actually exist to succeed with it.”

Sweden is a newcomer to the 2030 race, filling a void left after the IOC hit reset on what had been a fierce competition at its outset last year. Spain withdrew a Pyrenees bid when joint partners couldn’t agree to a venue allocation; Canada stepped away from a Vancouver-centered British Columbia bid when the province denied necessary funding and Sapporo hit pause as it tries to weather the Tokyo 2020 bribery scandal that has devastated public support.

Salt Lake City is positioned as a backup if no other viable 2030 host can be found, but officials at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) appear tightly focused on hosting in 2034 instead, allowing a gap following the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games and maximizing potential revenue opportunities.

Switzerland is exploring a possible bid and the IOC has indicated that more than six regions are looking at hosting future Winter Olympics. Under the IOC’s continuous dialogue process interested bidders can discuss projects in confidence and without commitment and to explore mutual opportunities. There is no set timetable for the election of host cities but IOC officials have said not to expect any final announcements before 2024.

Sweden is the most successful Winter Olympics nation never to host the Winter Games despite eight previous bids. Stockholm hosted the Summer Games in 1912.

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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