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Austria pulls out of 2026 Winter Olympic bidding

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Austria withdrew its 2026 Winter Olympic bid — centered on Graz, its second-largest city — citing a lack of political backing.

Austria’s Olympic Committee informed the International Olympic Committee on Friday it ended the bid, according to a press release.

Graz’s withdrawal leaves five countries in the running for the 2026 Winter Games, due to be awarded by IOC members vote next year — Canada (Calgary), Italy (Cortina d’Ampezzo/Milan/Torino), Japan (Sapporo), Sweden (Stockholm) and Turkey (Erzurum). One or more of those nations’ bids could hinge on public votes, too.

Switzerland also entered the bid race before the spring deadline, but its Sion bid was rejected by public vote last month.

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).

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

Graz shares a province with Schladming, host of the 1982 and 2013 World Alpine Skiing Championships.

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 is expected to bid for the 2030 Olympics — with one of Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe.

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Switzerland 2026 Olympic bid rejected by public vote

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SION, Switzerland (AP) — Another Olympic hosting bid in Switzerland was sunk Sunday by a public vote against expected high costs.

A total of 53.98 percent of voters in the Swiss region of Valais refused to pledge financial support for a 2026 Winter Games hosting bid centered on the town of Sion.

“There is no plan B,” Sion Mayor Philippe Varone said Sunday, declaring the bid campaign over.

It is the third time in five years that a bid campaign supported by the Swiss national Olympic body was rejected by the people.

In 2013, voters in the upscale ski resorts of St. Moritz and Davos, plus their home canton (state), rejected a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Last year, the same Graubuenden region rejected a renewed campaign for 2026.

Sunday’s vote is another rejection by European voters for the International Olympic Committee, and one that hit closer to home.

Sion called for medal events to be scattered across Switzerland, including in the IOC’s home city of Lausanne in the neighboring canton of Vaud.

The IOC on Sunday blamed misinformation for the latest loss.

“From the polls, we understand that outdated information on the cost of the Games was the main concern for those voting against the funding,” the Olympic body said.

Sion offered what the bidders termed a sustainable Olympics relying on already existing ice venues and ski courses. Voters rejected assurances from the IOC and bid supporters that expensive new construction would not be needed.

The IOC has created a more flexible bidding process for the 2026 Olympics, and still has six possible bids in contention: Turin and Milan in Italy; Graz in Austria; Stockholm; Turkey’s Erzurum; Calgary, Canada; and Sapporo, Japan.

IOC members will make their decision in September 2019.

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Sapporo wants to push back 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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Sapporo, one of seven 2026 Winter Olympic bids, told the Japanese Olympic Committee it prefers to bid for the 2030 Winter Games instead, according to Japanese media.

Officials from Sapporo and the Japanese Olympic Committee are expected to hold talks soon, according to Jiji Press.

If Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, remains in the 2026 race after the IOC invites cities to the official candidate phase in October, it faces one clear obstacle, reportedly indicated by Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto: The 2018 Winter Olympics were in PyeongChang and the 2022 Winter Games will be in Beijing.

IOC president Thomas Bach said he hopes the Winter Olympics can return to a more traditional location in 2026, which USOC chairman Larry Probst called “code for Europe or North America.”

2030 might not be much easier. The U.S. and Norway could both put forth strong bids.

Sapporo, which has been talked about as a potential 2026 bid city for more than three years, hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2017, as well as in 1986 and 1990.

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