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IOC board nominates three bids for 2026 Winter Olympics; Turkey dropped

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Calgary, Stockholm and a Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo bid from Italy are the three proposed finalists for the 2026 Winter Olympic host, which will be chosen by IOC members next year.

The IOC executive board nominated those three bids to be confirmed by IOC members next week while a fourth bid — Erzurum, Turkey — was not recommended.

Bids from Austria, Japan and Switzerland were dropped earlier this year. The remaining three bids each face challenges on the road to the 2019 IOC members vote.

Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, faces a public vote on the bid on Nov. 13. If Calgary does get the 2026 Winter Games, it could hurt a possible 2030 U.S. bid from Denver, Salt Lake City or Reno-Tahoe as North America has never hosted back-to-back Summer or Winter Games.

Stockholm had its 2022 Winter Games bid dropped due to lack of political and financial support. The bid was revived for 2026, declared dead by Swedish politicians in April 2017, but kept alive by the Swedish Olympic Committee. As with the 2022 bid, Alpine events are slated for Åre, about 350 miles north. Sliding events could be in Latvia, 300 miles across the Baltic Sea.

The Italian bid has been in recent flux. Torino, which held the 2006 Winter Games, dropped from the multi-city bid in September. Rome bids for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics were dropped due to lack of financial support and political concerns.

IOC vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch said Turkey, which had never bid for a Winter Olympics nor hosted a Summer or Winter Games, lacked winter sports experience.

“The level of investment needed for general infrastructure including accommodation, transport, energy, telecom, is very, very high. It’s very, very high to the point that we believe it can be done. It certainly can be done, but probably it’s going to be easier if they have more time to do it,” he said. “Start organizing events from the international winter [sports] federations, start continuing in that line, continue to invest, maybe even Youth [Olympic] Games at one point in time.”

The IOC’s 2026 evaluation group report analysis of each bid:

Calgary
The city breathes the legacy of the 1988 Games and can make optimal use of existing venues for 2026. Calgary boasts valuable experience and expertise in hosting winter sports competitions and other major events. The city, the province and its people have a deep love and affinity for winter sports. In dialogue and partnership with the IOC, Calgary has developed a Games concept and vision that fit the new era of Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm and meet the city’s long-term goals.

Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo
Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.

Stockholm
A modern global capital with a historic city centre, Stockholm proposes venues in the heart of the city that would elevate and energize the Games experience. Sweden has the hosting experience, love for winter sports and established World Cup venues necessary for delivering the Games. In line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm, Stockholm has developed a Games concept that addresses the city’s future needs and aims to improve the lives of all its citizens.

Erzurum
The timing for 2026 is challenging. The concentration of investment in general infrastructure such as accommodation, transport, energy and telecoms would be extremely high. Significant investment would also be needed in sports venues. The region has limited experience in hosting major international winter sports events and would benefit from organising further World Cups, World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.

Erzurum nevertheless presents great promise for the long-term future, having an ambitious vision of developing a young and vibrant university city into a winter sports centre. Erzurum can take advantage of national government plans and funding to develop the city into a major hub.

MORE: 2022 Youth Olympic host chosen, history for Africa

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Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

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Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.