Innsbruck 2026 begins charm offensive on public ahead of October referendum
By Jonathan Rest
The ÖOC, the Austrian Olympic Committee, began its Olympics roadshow, confident it has a no-risk, cost-effective proposal to host the 2026 winter games that will resonate with voters next month.
The ÖOC has been working on a proposed bid by Innsbruck and the surrounding Tyrol region to host the 2026 Olympics for the past year, and has received strong backing from both the Austrian government and Innsbruck mayor Christine Oppitz-Plörer, but must overcome the potential hurdle of a 15 October referendum.
Recent referenda on hosting Olympics held in various countries have tended to result in the rejection of bids, but Peter Mennel (pictured), secretary general of the ÖOC, argud that the Tyrol-wide roadshow to sell the merits of the bid will pay dividends.
In an exclusive interview with Sportcal, Mennel said: "We are always talking with the public. We are present on social media. The roadshow is a real chance for us to explain our plans and show that it is a sensible bid. Now is the time gain momentum, because you have to emotionalise and mobilise the people to go out to vote. I'm very confident."
The referendum comes as the IOC faces renewed criticism amid allegations of ethical wrongdoing among a handful of its members. However, Mennel is confident that will not be in voters' minds.
He said: "I think the IOC is doing a good job of restoring its reputation. You can make mistakes but in life if you make a mistake you get a second chance. Why should this not be the same for the IOC?"
The Innsbruck bid believes that it conforms with the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reform programme to cut games costs, arguing that it does not need to build any permanent venues. As a result, its proposed budget is a modest €1.175 billion ($1.4 billion).
Mennel also argued that tens of millions of euros can be saved by not having to hire expensive bid consultants.
He explained: "We have a lot of knowledge, and knowledge saves you money. You do not need to fly in all these experts from around the world and pay them a lot of money. We have federations in Austria which work very well to organise world championships in all these winter sports every year.
"I'm sure we can save a lot of money by using our in-house experts. Combined with the fact that we don't have to build any venues, it means we can have a very low budget."
Last month, Innsbruck revealed some of its plans for a games in the region, which would involve speed skating taking place in the German municipality of Inzell, 20 kilometres from the Austrian border.
Other plans include: opening and closing ceremonies, figure skating, short track skating, ice hockey, luge, bobsleigh, skeleton and ski jumping in Innsbruck; biathlon in Hochfilzen; Nordic skiing in Seefeld; Alpine skiing in St. Anton am Arlberg; and snowboard events and freestyle skiing in Kühtai.
Innsbruck has hosted the winter Olympics twice before, in 1964 and 1976, and also staged the inaugural winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012. However, a bid by Salzburg to host the 2014 winter Olympics lost out to Sochi in Russia.
Other possible bidders for the 2026 winter Olympics include Calgary in Canada, Sion in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden, a city in Norway and Sapporo in Japan.
The IOC will select the host at its September 2019 session in Milan, Italy.