The Japanese city of Sapporo has paused its efforts to land the 2030 Winter Olympic Games due in large part to the ongoing scandal around bid-rigging connected to the Tokyo 2020 summer games.

Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, admitted as much at a press conference yesterday (December 20), saying that efforts to secure the games in eight years’ time would be halted “for some time” in terms of active promotion.

So far, a number of arrests have been made in connection to alleged bid-rigging and general corruption during the build-up to the Tokyo Games in July and August last year.

Major Japanese companies connected to the Tokyo games, including advertising giant Dentsu, have been investigated, with their offices raided.

Up until this point, Sapporo has been seen as the favorite to land the 2030 event ahead of Vancouver in Canada, with Salt Lake City in the US considered the frontrunner for the 2034 edition.

However, Akimoto has now said: “We recognize we cannot move forward unless we review our operations for the 2030 games and show that to the world … To start with, we have to take into consideration the case of the bid-rigging allegations.”

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He added: “We will discontinue for some time any aggressive effort on such activities. We will review our bid to gain the true understanding of the people of the city.”

Last week, Naomichi Suzuki, governor of the Hokkaido prefecture in which Sapporo is located, said that the bid-rigging investigation represented a blow to Sapporo’s chances of gaining preferred bidder status with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in advance of that body's hosting decision.

In August, a former member of the Tokyo 2020 board, Harayuki Takahashi, was arrested under suspicion of receiving bribes from Olympic sponsors.

Executives from several other Japanese firms, including ADK, suits retailer Aoki Holdings, and the Kadokawa publishing firm, have also been arrested.

It has been alleged that as many as 26 bid processes to find partner agencies for test events in advance of the Tokyo Games were rigged, with nine companies having secured rights through these under-investigation processes.

Sapporo civic officials have so far declined to hold a referendum on whether they should press ahead with a 2030 Olympics bid.

However, while the bid has been paused, for now, recent events mean there is still time to get it back on track.

Earlier this month, the IOC said it would delay the awarding of the 2030 Winter Games, potentially until 2024 – that decision had been due next year at the Olympic body’s 2023 session.

If Sapporo pulls out, Salt Lake City would be the only known bidder for either the 2030 or 2034 games. Vancouver in Canada had been seen as one option for the earlier event, only for the regional government of British Columbia to say in October that it would not fund a bid.

The IOC cited concerns about climate change as the primary reason for that decision on the 2030 hosts being delayed, with the IOC’s future host commission now having more time to make recommendations around how upcoming Winter Games should be allocated.

The potential for hosting rights to the 2030 and 2034 games to be awarded at the same time was also discussed at the most recent meeting of the IOC executive board.

The IOC has said this could potentially “create stability for winter sports” and that it will explore this option more in the coming months.

The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in the Milan-Cortino region of northern Italy.