Stockholm 2026 buoyed by long-awaited government support for 'sustainable' games
By Simon Ward
Stockholm’s bid for the 2026 winter Olympic Games has today welcomed a formal pledge of support for the campaign from the Swedish government, which will be regarded as a significant boost to the capital as it goes up against the Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo bid that already has the backing of the Italian authorities
The lack of central government support had been seen as a major hitch for Stockholm albeit the bid claimed to have held “very positive” talks with senior officials including prime minister Stefan Löfven earlier this year, and sports minister Amanda Lind said today that the administration was “united behind the decision.”
Sweden has never previously hosted the winter Olympics, and the only summer games in the country were in Stockholm as long ago as 1912.
It is envisaged that, if the bid is successful, skiing events would take place in the northern resort of Åre, while luge, skeleton and bobsleigh competitions would be held in the Latvian city of Sigulda.
The host city will be decided in a vote at the International Olympic Committee session in Lausanne on 24 June.
While the Swedish government support does not come with a major financial commitment (Stockholm 2026 has pledged not to use taxpayer money to stage the Olympics), it does provide guarantees on issues such as security and visas at the games, as required by the IOC.
In an interview with Swedish television channel TV4, Lind said: “It would be great for Sweden to host an Olympic Games. For the entire sports movement, it would be a huge boost. As Sports Minister, I’m glad that we have been able to give this backing. The government is united behind the decision.”
She also hailed the bid’s commitment to staging the most sustainable Olympic Games in history, saying: “If we get the Olympic Games, it would be very positive in the way the Swedish Olympic Committee and the Swedish Paralympic Committee have planned the Olympics.
“It would be a way for Sweden to show how sports events can take place in the future, and to be able to show that one can do it without expensive new builds – in a sustainable and climate-smart way.”
The government support is timely coming, as it does, shortly after the recent visit of the IOC’s evaluation commission to Sweden, and ahead of Friday's deadline for the submission of completed guarantee files to the IOC.
Richard Brisius, the chief executive of Stockholm 2026, said: “We are pleased that the Swedish government and our politicians, like us, think that an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2026 would be good for Sweden and the Olympic movement.
“We have already seen huge support from the public, business community and different stakeholders across the country, and it’s fantastic that the Government has now pledged its full support as well. We have been working closely and continuing a dialogue with the Government and other important stakeholders for many months, so for us, this decision is not unexpected.”
He added: “We all know that the only votes that matter will occur on 24 June 2019 by the IOC members in Lausanne. Between now and then, we will continue to work hard and showcase our plan for a truly sustainable Winter Games, not just for 2026, but for every Games beyond that. That’s what ‘Made In Sweden’ really means – quality you can count on, and passionate people you can trust to deliver.”
While it had yet to receive the support of the central government, Stockholm 2026 had secured the backing of governors of Swedish counties that will stage events if the bid is successful, and Latvia’s prime minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins this week pledged his full support to the bid in a letter to the Latvian Olympic Committee.
The long-awaited government backing will have convinced the Stockholm- Åre bid that it can compete with the Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo proposition after Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, last week signed a letter guaranteeing his government’s full support, including security, anti-doping expenditures and co-ordinating visas for athletes, officials and fans.
This followed the IOC evaluation commission’s visit to Italy last week.
However, the Swedish bid appears to have some way to go match its Italian counterpart in terms of public support.
The results of a new poll conducted by the IOC showed 83 per cent of respondents across Italy backing the country’s bid, while 81 per cent were in favour in Lombardy, of which Milan is the capital and 80 per cent in Veneto, the region in which Cortina is located.
Only 4 per cent of Italians disagreed with the statement: “I am in favour of Milan/Cortina hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 2026.”
The poll results compare with an equivalent IOC poll on the Stockholm-Åre bid, revealed last month, which showed that support in Sweden for the bid had increased to 55 per cent in favour of hosting the games, compared with 17 per cent against.
In Stockholm itself, 54 per cent were in favour and 17 per cent against.
The evaluation commission will now compile a report on the two bids ahead of the selection of the host city in June.