TOKYO: The Japanese city of Sapporo would not need to construct a single competition venue in a potential bid to host the 2026 Winter Games, Japan’s top Olympic official said Friday (Jan 19).
Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) president Tsunekazu Takeda said the snow-swept northern city could make use of existing venues from the 1972 Winter Olympics it staged, and the 1998 Games in Nagano – about 1,000km southwest of Sapporo – if it formally joins the bid race.
“It’s ready to go,” Takeda told AFP in an interview. “We would use all the facilities from the (1972) Sapporo Olympics. The sliding courses for bobsleigh and luge no longer exist, but we would use the Nagano tracks.
“We could also use the Sapporo Dome for the opening and closing ceremonies. There are no new (sports) venues we actually need to construct,” he said, adding that the JOC would look to reduce Sapporo’s initial budget estimate of around US$4 billion.
Sapporo is currently in the dialogue stage with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to explore the possibility of a bid which, if successful, would give Asia a third successive Winter Games after Pyeongchang next month and Beijing in 2022.
Cities allowed to advance to the candidature stage will be selected at an IOC board meeting in October, with the winner announced in September 2019.
“Asia hasn’t previously had three Winter Olympics in a row of course,” said Takeda, who first announced Sapporo’s interest in staging the Games alongside city mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto last November.
“But after Pyeongchang, nobody expected Beijing to win the next vote – that was a real surprise, so we want to be prepared. All the venues are already in place to host the Games at any time.”
Takeda, a former Olympic show jumper whose great-grandfather was the Emperor Meiji, insisted that Olympic fatigue would not be a factor six years after the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“If we wanted to host another Summer Olympics six years after nobody would agree, but the Winter Olympics is a totally different event,” said the 70-year-old.
“We’re told the approval rating among the citizens of Sapporo for an Olympic bid is very high,” he added.
“Sapporo is a mecca for winter sports in Asia and last year it successfully hosted the Asian Winter Games. It would be a safe and totally reliable host city.”
Sapporo, a city of two million on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, could face competition from Sion, Calgary and Stockholm, among others.
“We don’t yet know what European cities will end up bidding but Sapporo would be an ideal candidate,” said Takeda, underlining the city’s credentials.
“Sapporo has always wanted to host the Olympics again and our aim is to be ready to host a Games, for the city and for the sake of the Olympic Movement too.”