By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven will attend an International Olympic Committee vote next week to back Stockholm’s candidacy to land the 2026 Winter Olympics, bid officials said on Thursday.
The announcement comes a day after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed he would attend the IOC session in Lausanne with Milan/Cortina D’Ampezzo bidding against Stockholm/Are. The IOC will elect the winning bid on Monday.
Swedish campaign officials said in a statement that their government was fully supportive of the bid and the Games.
“Prime Minister Lofven will use the opportunity to emphasise that hosting its first ever Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be a national project for Sweden,” the statement said.
The Swedish bid team added that Crown Princess Victoria would also join the Stockholm/Are delegation.
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.
There is strong public opposition in Sweden, with only half of the population in favour of getting the Olympics according to an IOC study. The city of Stockholm has also voiced concerns over the possible use of public funds.
Should Stockholm win the Games, the capital has said it will refuse to sign the host city contract with the IOC, which would then be done by co-hosts Are.
Swedish government support for the bid came in only recently as did Italian backing for their bid.
Up until a few years ago bidding for the Games was a fierce affair and campaign budgets grew to as much as $100 million as heads of state attended the vote in order to push their country’s candidacy.
Interest in hosting the Games has waned in recent years amid ballooning budgets. This has forced the IOC to reform the bid process in an effort to turn the Games into an attractive prospect again.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)