Bach cites public polls and government guarantees as key factors in 2026 outcome
By Jonathan Rest
Low levels of public support and a controversial refusal by Stockholm to sign the host city contract were contributing factors in the Swedish capital's defeat by Milan-Cortina in the battle to host the 2026 winter Olympic Games yesterday, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has said.
Stockholm-Are received 34 votes from IOC members, compared with 47 for Milan-Cortina.
The Swedish bid had eventually won the support of the Swedish government for its campaign - albeit Åre would have signed the host city contract in the result of a win - while support was also lower among the public than for the rival bid: 54 per cent in Sweden, and 55 per cent in Stockholm, according to an IOC poll conducted earlier this year (it was 87 per cent in Italy and 83 per cent in Milan).
In recent days, Stockholm-Åre had claimed a dramatic increase in public support for the bid, up to 63 per cent, with just 11 per cent opposition, but the claim apparently came too late.
Bach said after the outcome of yesterday's vote: "The gap in public support, the 83 to 55 per cent, this was for many members a clear signal. Public support often goes hand-in-hand with political support and this was maybe the reason why the city of Stockholm was not ready to sign the host city contract.
"We can speculate there a long time but it was a great race, a close race and we had two great candidates."
During the candidate city presentations, Gunilla Lindberg, the influential Swedish IOC member, had challenged her IOC colleagues to prove the organisation's much-heralded reform measures were "not just talk."
She said: "As IOC members, you must choose a city that embodies the principles of Olympic Agenda 2020 and the New Norm. Not just on paper and frankly, not just in the bid, but in every part of culture and way of life. The question is, which city offers the best solution for real change?
"I believe the answer is Stockholm-Åre. I believe the movement needs three things in 2026: A partner that can deliver on time, on budget and with no drama or surprises.
"The moment of change is upon us and we must capture it. And I believe that Stockholm-Åre represents the change that we need to fulfill our Movement’s great and noble mission. This is your chance to prove that the New Norm is not just talk."
When that was put to Bach later in the day, the IOC president insisted that the victory of Milan-Cortina was proof the IOC was "walking the walk."
He said: "The election was a clear indication that this new approach to elect a host city, the more targeted and direct one, can address some of the issues. I would like to congratulate Milan-Cortina for this victory, which for the IOC is a great day.
"The candidature of Milan and Cortina stood out with 93 per cent existing venues. The IOC will contribute $925 million to help facilitate preparations and will be an important part of a great partnership. With this enthusiasm and support of the Italians, the foundations are laid for fantastic preparations."Following yesterday's election, Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted: "The winter Olympics will bring €5 billion [$5.7 billion] in 'added value' and produce 20,000 jobs. The winners are Italy, the future, and sports."
On the same social media platform, Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, wrote: "We are proud of this great result. Italy has won, an entire country that worked united and compact with the ambition to realize and offer the world a ‘memorable’ sports event."
The 2026 winter Olympics will take place from 6 to 22 February, followed by the winter Paralympics from 6 to 15 March.
It will be third time Italy has staged the winter Olympics, after Cortina in 1956 and Turin in 2006.
Milan is only slated to stage ice hockey, for which a privately-funded arena will be built, and figure skating and short track, as well as the opening ceremony at the city's famed soccer stadium, the 80,000-seat San Siro.
A near five-hour drive away is the Alpine ski resort of Cortina, where alpine skiing, sliding sports, biathlon and curling will be held. In between the two main hosts, competitions will be held in the likes of Val di Fiemme and Valtellina, with the closing ceremony in Verona.