Austria looks to be back on track in 2026 Olympics race
An Austrian bid to stage the 2026 winter Olympic Games could, after all, be forthcoming, three months after Innsbruck's hopes were dashed in a referendum.
Graz and Schladming, two cities located in the province of Styria, are exploring the possibility of launching a bid.
Cities must submit a letter of intent to the International Olympic Committee by the end of March, and present their final concept in September. The two cities are working on a financial plan to be presented in March, followed by a feasibility study and an infrastructural concept in June.
Schladming mayor Jürgen Winter said no referendum would be held.
In October, 55.4 per cent of voters in the Austrian region of Tyrol rejected a Innsbruck 2026 bid, while in the city itself the opposition hit 67.4 per cent. Voters were concerned about both the cost and the environmental implications of hosting the games.
At the time, Karl Stoss, president of the Austrian Olympic Committee, told Austria's Kurier newspaper: “It hurts my heart when you get such a slap in the face. Direct democracy only works properly if the people inform themselves in advance. But that happened too little in the past weeks, although we offered at least 50 events.”
In line with the International Olympic Committee's Agenda 2020 measures, Innsbruck had planned to organise a low-cost, sustainable games, without the need to build any permanent venues. It would have even staged ice skating in Inzell, Germany to keep costs down, meaning it could propose a modest budget of €1.18 billion ($1.45 billion).
However, local residents still rejected the notion of the Olympic Games, despite Innsbruck having staged the inaugural winter Youth Olympic Games just five years ago.
Sion in Switzerland has declared its intention to bid for the 2026 games, while Sapporo (Japan), Stockholm (Sweden), Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno-Tahoe (USA) and Calgary (Canada) are all mulling their options.
IOC representatives were in Calgary last week to hear more about the city's proposed venues and to try to find ways to reduce costs. Those talks have prompted the Calgary bid team to consider tweaks to its games blueprint for alpine skiing, which it had planned to stage at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park.
Although Lake Louise hosts regular World Cup events, the development required for a larger-scale Olympic Games would pose environmental concerns, as Canada limits activity in its national parks.
One option under consideration is smaller venues, but that comes with risks such as the potential for lower ticket revenue and a less competitive bid.
Bid leader Kyle Ripley told Canadian media: "Certainly the ski hill hosts World Cups annually and it does so successfully. The overlay for hosting Olympic Games is substantially larger than that of a World Cup.
"The venue has the capacity to accommodate the overlay, but we need to have a philosophical conversation as Albertans, as Canadians, if that venue is appropriate for an Olympic event in the national park."
Nakiska in Kananaskis Country, the site of alpine events during the Calgary 1988 winter games, remains an option, although the smaller resort means fewer tickets could be sold.
The IOC will select the 2026 host city at its September 2019 session in Milan.