By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee on Friday heaped praise on two remaining candidate cities for the 2026 Winter Olympics, with Italy’s Milan/Cortina bid recording stronger local support than Sweden’s Stockholm/Are proposal.
The IOC Evaluation Commission issued its report following inspection visits to both bidders earlier this year.
“Both projects prioritise legacy and sustainability by capitalising on winter sports tradition and experience, with first-rate, established World Cup venues, knowledgeable and passionate fans, volunteers and event organisers,” said evaluation commission chief Octavian Morariu.
The two bids are the last remaining after Swiss city Sion, Japan’s Sapporo, Austria’s Graz and 1988 hosts Calgary in Canada all withdrew last year, scared off by the cost and size of the Games or strong local opposition to the Olympics.
Turkey’s Erzurum was eliminated from the bidding process by the IOC, which has introduced reforms in recent years to cut bidding costs and organisation budgets to make the Games attractive to potential hosts again.
Some 80% of venues in both of the 2026 bids are either existing or temporary structures in an effort to keep construction costs associated with the Games low. The IOC said this had reduced budgets by 20% compared to the 2018 and the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“The two candidates have aligned their concepts with their context and local long-term goals. All of this led to massive cost savings and a more sustainable hosting model that is the new reality for the Games,” Morariu said.
It has not been an easy process for Milan and Stockholm though, with both having to wait until late to receive much-needed government guarantees and support.
The evaluation commission said the City of Stockholm would not be signing the host city contract should it be awarded the Games. Are would do it instead.
In past bid processes, when the Games were still a highly valued asset for cities, such refusals would equal early elimination from the bid process.
The commission, however, noted in its report Sweden’s ability to host global winter sports events.
“The candidature features established and iconic World Cup
and World Championship venues,” it said.
“Sweden is a winter sports country with a long tradition and experience in organising snow and ice events, and benefits from professional venue operators and a solid network of volunteers and passionate fans, all of which would ensure an unforgettable experience for the athletes.”
But the IOC recorded low support for the Games there, with only 55% in favour across Sweden and 54% in Stockholm.
The figures for the Milan/Cortina bid stood at 83% support in Italy and 87% in Milan, demonstrating what the IOC said was “the public’s enthusiasm for the project.”
The IOC will elect the winning bid at its session on June 24 in Lausanne.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)