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Austrian winter Olympics bid set to face referendum

The joint Austrian bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games by Graz and Schladming is set to face a state-wide referendum to see if the project moves forward.

The Styrian State Parliament has 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 is 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.

Nagl said, according to Austrian broadcaster ORF: “I have not only found supporters politically at federal, state and city level, everybody knows that. I fight for something, but others want to be against something. 

“I hope that the Styrians decide with vision as the result is binding for me. The referendum is likely to take place in September. This is because at the beginning of October, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a preselection of the Olympic candidates.”

In March, the Austrian Olympic Committee (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.

The bidding process for the 2026 Games formally launched with the opening of the invitation phase on September 29. Graz and Schladming have outlined a plan whereby they would be the main hubs for a 2026 Games, with events also taking place in other parts of Austria. Graz would serve as the de facto host city and would stage figure skating, short track speed skating and curling. Schladming would be the destination for Alpine skiing events.

Graz previously bid for the 2002 winter Olympics only to lose out to Salt Lake City. The IOC is due to make a final decision on the host city in September 2019.

Graz/Schladming and the ÖOC is currently facing competition from the 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).