Austria declares 2026 Winter Olympic bid interest to IOC

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Austria is moving forward with 2026 Winter Olympic bid interest, sending a letter of intent to the International Olympic Committee before the end-of-month deadline.

The bid would center on Graz, the nation’s second-largest city after Vienna. Graz shares a province with Schladming, host of the 1982 and 2013 World Alpine Skiing Championships.

In January, Graz and Schladming said they were working on a financial plan for a possible Olympic bid to be presented in March, followed by a feasibility study and an infrastructural concept in June, according to The Associated Press.

A planned Innsbruck bid for the 2026 Winter Games was dropped in October after defeat in a public vote.

Austria, fourth all time in Winter Olympic medals, hosted the Winter Games in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976. It lost in Olympic bidding for 2002 (Graz), 2006 (Klagenfurt), 2010 (Salzburg) and 2014 (Salzburg).

Italy declared a joint Milan-Torino bid earlier this week ahead of this weekend’s deadline. As did Turkey with the provincial capital of Erzurum.

The IOC said last month that four other cities entered the initial dialogue phase for potential 2026 Olympic bids: Calgary, Stockholm, Sion, Switzerland and Sapporo, Japan.

Bids could hinge on public votes, which led to the demise of recent Summer and Winter Games bids.

IOC president Thomas Bach has said he hopes the Winter Olympics can return to a more traditional location after PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022, which USOC chairman Larry Probst called “code for Europe or North America.”

The U.S. prefers to bid for the 2030 Olympics — with one of Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe — but would consider bidding earlier if the 2026 and 2030 Olympics will be awarded together like the 2024 and 2028 Games were to Paris and Los Angeles last year. A double vote appears unlikely at this point.

The 2026 Olympic host city is set to be chosen via IOC members vote in September 2019 in Milan.

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