Road To The Olympic Games

Sapporo has 2nd thoughts over 2026 Olympic bid: reports

The Japanese city of Sapporo seems to be having second thoughts about bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and could focus instead on the 2030 Games.

Japanese city's shifting preference towards 2030 could be good news for Calgary

Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda speaks during a January press interview. On Thursday, the city of Sapporo expressed doubts over a possible 2026 Olympic bid after a public poll revealed opinion was shifting towards 2030. (Toshifumi Kitamura/Getty Images)

The Japanese city of Sapporo seems to be having second thoughts about bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and could focus instead on the 2030 Games.

Sapporo held the 1972 Winter Olympics and is one of seven cities showing interest in 2026.

This could be good news for Calgary, which has officially been looking at making a bid for the 2026 Games.

Despite its own frustration over the bureaucratic process, Calgary's city council voted in April to continue exploring the possibility. The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee concluded last June that a bid was feasible, and estimated that hosting the 2026 Olympics would cost at least $4.6 billion.

The International Olympic Committee will decide in October which bids are serious with the winner picked in September of 2019.

Akihiro Okumura, a spokesman for Sapporo's bid promotion department, tells The Associated Press that public opinion polls seem to indicate a preference for 2030.

"Sapporo has not made an official decision yet," he told AP in an email. He said the city and the Japanese Olympic Committee were still mulling all possibilities.

He said recent opinion polls conducted by local media and the Sapporo chamber of commerce indicated "it might be better for Sapporo to bid for 2030 instead of 2026. This is actually one of the factors we need to consider for the decision."

Plenty of interest

Besides Calgary and Sapporo, other interested cities in the 2026 Games are: Stockholm, Sweden; Sion, Switzerland; Milan-Turin, Italy; Erzurum, Turkey; Graz, Austria.

The IOC has tried to reshape its bidding process after six European cities pulled out of possible or official bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics. It was left with proposals from two authoritarian states with Beijing, China, winning narrowly over Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Cities interested in the Olympics have balked at soaring costs, a lack of public support expressed in rejected referendums, and expensive venues left to become "white elephants."

Sapporo was praised for the '72 Olympics, but probably has the odds stacked against it for 2026.

Three consecutive Olympics are being staged in Asia — the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Traditional return

IOC President Thomas Bach has said the games should return to a classic winter destination — probably in North America or Europe — after forays into non-traditional areas like Pyeongchang and Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

"We have to think that now is the time to go back with the Winter Games to a traditional winter sports country," Bach said recently in Stockholm.

Sapporo could also run into stiff competition if it bids for 2030. Lillehammer, Norway, venue for the 1994 Winter Olympics, and 2002 host Salt Lake City have suggested they are interested.

Lillehammer is often cited as the best-ever Winter Olympics.

Stockholm may be the early favourite. It held the 1912 Olympics, but has never played host to the Winter Olympics.

Stockholm officials have said the bid will not face a public referendum, with has killed many bids and could down several this time.

With files from CBC Sports

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