Austria has today (Friday) become the second contender to drop out of the race for hosting rights to the 2026 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) blaming lack of local support for its decision.
The ÖOC said it has informed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of its decision to withdraw from the process in which it had been a contender through a joint bid from Graz and Schladming. Earlier this week, it emerged that the bid was set to face a state-wide referendum to determine if the project moved forward.
The Styrian State Parliament approved an emergency request before its summer recess to launch a referendum on the bid as soon as possible. Mayor of Graz, Siegfried Nagl, said this was likely to take place in September with the approval coming after the Austrian Communist Party collected more than the 10,000 required signatures to force a vote.
In March, the ÖOC gave the green light to submitting a joint bid from Graz and Schladming for the 2026 Games, but warned that the project still needed firm backing from the government of Styria.
Graz and Schladming put forward a proposal to bid for the 2026 Games in January, three months after Innsbruck was forced to shelve its plans due to lack of local support. Innsbruck had previously set forth a bid plan encompassing the wider Tyrol region, along with events in Germany. However, in a referendum staged in October, 53.35 per cent of voters in Tyrol rejected the proposal, with this figure rising to 67.41 per cent in Innsbruck, the capital of the province.
In a statement today, the ÖOC said that clear political commitment or support from the Styrian provincial government – considered by the Committee from the outset as compulsory – has not yet been received. Under these circumstances, the ÖOC said a project of these dimensions is not feasible. The ÖOC said it was pulling the bid in order to avoid any further costs.
ÖOC president Karl Stoss and secretary general Peter Mennel added: “It is to be hoped that the feasibility study and the organisational work already carried out created a possible basis for future negotiations. In any case, from the point of view of the ÖOC, the conditions for a winter sports nation like Austria to organise sustainable winter Games have not changed. For our top athletes and winter sports fans we regret that this unique opportunity, a home Olympic Games, will not be provided in the near future.”
The bidding process for the 2026 Games formally launched with the opening of the invitation phase on September 29. The IOC is due to make a final decision on the host city in September 2019.
Today’s news comes after Sion’s bid to host the 2026 Olympics collapsed last month after the majority of voters in the Swiss canton of Valais refused to approve a financial commitment of CHF100m (€86m/$102m) towards the Games. The Valais government said that about 54 per cent of the voters had dismissed the proposal.
With the exit of Graz/Schladming and Sion, the current list of contenders now stands at: Canadian Olympic Committee (Calgary), Italian Olympic Committee (Cortina d’Ampezzo/Milan/Turin), Japanese Olympic Committee (Sapporo), Swedish Olympic Committee (Stockholm) and Turkish Olympic Committee (Erzurum).