Sapporo has secured formal approval from the Japanese Olympic Committee to take part in the bidding process for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The city in Hokkaido Prefecture plans to announce its intention to bid before the deadline at the end of March 2018, JOC Vice President Eisuke Hiraoka said Wednesday.

In a new procedure introduced by the International Olympic Committee for the 2026 Games, interested host cities take part in a dialogue stage, where they explore the benefits and opportunities of hosting the Olympics before submitting their candidacy proposals.

Sapporo, which held Japan's first Winter Games in 1972, wants to move forward to the dialogue stage, where the city and the JOC will discuss costs and hosting plans with the IOC before making a final decision on whether to progress the bid.

Cities given approval to advance to the candidature stage will be decided at an IOC board meeting in October 2018, and the winning bid will be announced in September 2019.