IOC looks to lure traditional winter sports countries back to bidding table
By Jonathan Rest in Lausanne
Cities interested in hosting the winter Olympics in 2026 have been given an extra four months to formulate their plans as part of a simplified, cheaper bidding process that the International Olympic Committee hopes will reinvigorate interest in the games from traditional winter sports regions.
The invitation phase was due to run from September to May 2018, but has now been extended until September 2018, with the formal bid process having been shortened to just one year. The 2026 winter Olympics are scheduled to be awarded at the September 2019 IOC session in Milan.
Calgary (Canada), Sion (Switzerland) and Innsbruck (Austria) are formulating plans for 2026, while Sapporo (Japan) and the Norwegian Olympic Committee are believed to be interested.
The change to the bidding process could also re-energise Stockholm's chances, which is struggling due to a lack of political support in the Swedish capital.
The changes, approved by IOC members yesterday following a recommendation made by a special working group to the executive board last month, will "reduce costs, simplify procedures and provide more assistance to national Olympic committees and cities at every stage," the IOC said.
During the extended invitation phase, the IOC will take a more proactive role in assisting and supporting cities considering a candidature well before any commitment. The IOC said it will customise its approach to the needs of the cities to help them develop the best value proposition for their city and region, while the cities will no longer be required to submit any formal proposals or deliver any presentations during the invitation phase.
Yesterday the IOC pressed ahead with plans to award the 2024 and 2028 summer games to Paris and Los Angeles (but not necessarily in that order), with IOC president Thomas Bach having admitted there are "too many losers" in the process, but it is in the winter Olympics movement where there is the most concern.
The 2022 winter Olympics vote came down to Beijing versus Almaty, with the Chinese capital victorious, but that process was overshadowed by the withdrawals throughout the race of Stockholm, Oslo and Krakow for financial reasons and Lviv on political grounds.
Bach admitted that deep scepticism toward a wide range of institutions, including corporations, government and sports organisations in a growing number of countries - as well as the IOC's reaction to that - had made it harder to attract candidates for the winter games.
He told IOC members yesterday: "The candidature process which worked so well in the past has become too expensive and too onerous for this new political reality. We have been asking to much, too soon of the cities.
"We have and continue to have much smaller number of candidate cities. Because the Olympic Winter Games in 2014 (Sochi), 2018 (PyeongChang) and 2022 (Beijing) are held in completely new winter sports destinations, there is a public assumption that this trend will continue. It is therefore in our best interest to demonstrate that traditional winter sports destinations in the Americas, Europe or Asia are most welcome as Olympic hosts."
With changes made to both the 2024/28 summer and 2026 winter games candidate phases, questions were raised by some IOC members over what that means for the longer-term.
Prince Albert of Monaco said: "What happens if we have two great cities for 2032? Do we award them 2032 and 2036? My concern is if the exception becomes the norm."
Bach assured members that there was no set model going forward, noting: "We will adapt the candidature procedure accordingly. We have adapted to the change now and we will be open to further change in the future."
Meanwhile, the Netherlands' Camiel Eurlings wants the IOC to use the next eight years to get the details right to encourage smaller cities to bid for the games.
He noted: "Let's do more... spread [the games] over cities, adapt facilities. Let us use time to boldly push on with these Agenda 2020 reforms so that in 2025 when we choose for 2032 the games… we have lots of excellent bids and more bids."