National

As it eyes bid to host 2026 Winter Games, Sapporo mayor says city will aim to reduce costs

Kyodo

Sapporo is looking to pare down its planned $4 billion bid to host the 2026 Winter Games in line with the International Olympic Committee’s emphasis on cost-efficiency, Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto has said.

“We are on the same page as the IOC. It’s clear that ‘compact’ will be the keyword of these games,” he said Monday.

Akimoto was confident IOC President Thomas Bach came away impressed by Sapporo’s potential bid after the German visited Japan House in Gangneung, South Korea, on Monday.

“We were able to do a lot of PR for Hokkaido (and) Sapporo and he seemed very keen,” Akimoto said after giving Bach a guided tour through some exhibits showing the best of his city.

“I think he got a good feel for what we are about. I think he became extremely aware of the potential Sapporo and Hokkaido has.”

“But, equally, we are aware that other cities in Europe are very passionate, lobbying hard to host the games and that the event will have been held (three times) consecutively in Asia.”

If the bid moves into the next phase, Sapporo will likely have to fight it out with the Swedish capital, Stockholm, Calgary in Canada and Switzerland’s Sion in the race to host the 2026 Games. Other cities have until the end of March to officially express interest.

Cost considerations will be a major factor in which city is chosen at the IOC session to be held in Milan, Italy, in 2019.

The IOC last week unveiled “The New Norm,” which details a seven-year planning process for host cities with budget-saving measures including downsizing the Olympic Village, using existing public transportation and sharing venues across sports. The IOC says the measures could lead to savings in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The capital of Hokkaido and host of the 1972 Winter Games, Sapporo currently expects it will cost ¥210.1 billion to ready facilities and another ¥243.6 billion to manage the games — costs it cannot shoulder on its own.

Akimoto, who got a guarded response in December when he asked the central government for financial support, said, “We can’t expect the national government to front the bulk of the costs as they have in the past.”

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