Sapporo to end 2030 Winter Olympics bid

According to a report by Japan’s Kyodo News, Sapporo’s years long pursuit to host the Winter Olympics in 2030 is about to come to an end.

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, proposed to host Alpine events at 2030 Olympic Winter Games (Niseko Resort Photo)

Kyodo cites multiple sources with knowledge of the matter who say Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto will meet with Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita in Tokyo October 11 to finalize the decision. Instead, the Hokkaido capital intends to bid to host in 2034 or later.

According to NHK, sources said the city had difficulty “building understanding for its bid among residents” and promotion of the project had been limited.

Sapporo was the frontrunner in a campaign that began more than two years ago until the Tokyo 2020 corruption scandal grabbed headlines and the bid said it would pause promotional activities until it could win back public trust.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) then chose to delay its selection process last December when it ran out of active applicants. Both Vancouver in Canada and a joint Barcelona-Pyrenees project from Spain dropped out of the race earlier.

Earlier this year Mayor Akimoto was elected on a pro-Olympic platform and he vowed to continue the bids even as the JOC said they wouldn’t support a 2030 bid. As recently as this week Sapporo officials said an expert panel was reviewing a revised a Olympic management plan that would reduce the risk of corruption by increasing the number of vendors and providing more oversight in the selection process.

But the JOC has the final say on bids and Yamashita made clear that Sapporo would have to wait until at least 2034 before hosting its second Winter Games and that the race would be open to any interested Japanese city.

European bids from Switzerland, Sweden and France launched bids this year creating a competitive field that might have been too formidable for Sapporo. IOC officials have said they hope to narrow the list to one or more candidates in December with the goal of electing the winner at its all-members Session in July just ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The IOC is considering electing the 2030 and 2034 host city at the same time and potentially organizing a permanent pool of rotating Winter Games hosts in order to get ahead of the effects of climate change. These decisions could be made later this month when the IOC’s Executive Board and membership meet for an annual meeting in Mumbai, India.

Salt Lake City is campaigning to host the 2034 edition and the American city is considered the heavy favorite to host its second Winter Games that year. Sapporo would be a clear outsider in that race.

Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Games and lost a bid to host again in 1984. The city dropped its bid to host in 2026 when Hokkaido was hit by a massive earthquake in 2018.

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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