While it may seem early to think about the 2030 Winter Olympics, there is a lengthy lead up for hosting the Olympics and typically host nations are announced 7 years in advance. The next Winter Olympics host city was supposed to be announced at the 140th IOC meeting in Mumbai in 2023, however the IOC made the announcement last month, that this will be delayed to 2024.
According to the IOC statement, the decision to postpone the announcement was based on several factors, including climate change and the sustainability of winter sports. However, what may also be playing into the decision to delay the selection of the new host venue may be that Japan has decided to put its 2030 bid on ice, following the bribing scandal surrounding the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Furthermore, Salt Lake City has made it known through the grapevine that they would prefer to host 2034 rather than 2030 so as not to compete too much for resources and attention with the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
The bidding for the 2030 Winter Olympics has seen a bit of up and down since the process was opened, which in itself is not unusual. Initially, Salt Lake City, Sapporo, and Barcelona expressed interest to host the Winter Olympics. However, Barcelona withdrew its bid as it could not come to an agreement on hosting the Games in the Pyrenees region, where most of the snow events would be held. In 2021, Vancouver submitted a preliminary bid, but the BC government announced in October 2022, that they were not supporting the bid financially, and the bid had to be withdrawn. This leaves Salt Lake City and Sapporo as the only bidders at this moment.
The IOC is leaning towards introducing a few additional stipulations to host nations in light of the continued criticism about the Beijing Olympics. The region is not known for its snowfall and a lot of artificial snow had to be made in order to hold the event. One of those proposed requirements is that regions need to have the majority of infrastructure already in place, while another one suggests that hosts need to show average minimum temperatures of below freezing for a 10-year period. This also has brought forward the idea that future games could possibly be rotated between a pool of acceptable host nations.
The announcement to put Sapporo’s bid on ice for now has thrown a spanner in the works of establishing such a pool. Both Sapporo as well as Salt Lake City have held the Games before, in 1972 and 2002 respectively. They have much of the infrastructure in place and are both guaranteed snow-safe venues, thus would fulfill any new requirements introduced by the IOC. Not only is the pool currently in danger, but finding a timely host for 2030 is in jeopardy. Delaying the announcement buys the IOC some time to make sure there is a firm commitment for 2030. The IOC surely hopes that delaying the decision will give time for the bribing scandal to blow over.
Last year, Japanese authorities launched an investigation into the alleged taking of bribes in the selection of Tokyo Games sponsors, as well as the rigging of the bidding process for test events. Prosecutors raided Japanese advertising firms Dentsu, Hakuhodo, and ADK Holdings and arrested former Tokyo Games organizing committee, ‘Tocog’, executive Haruyuki Takahashi and other Tocog executives. In light of these developments, Sapporo decided to halt its bid promotion efforts. Katsuhiro Akimoto, the mayor of candidate city Sapporo, said in a press conference “We must first dispel the public’s unease rather than rushing forward blindly without regard to appearances.” Akimoto stresses, however, that the Olympic bid has not been withdrawn.
Sapporo is located on the north island of Hokkaido in Japan. The region experiences an average snowfall of 175 inches (445cm). The location close to the sea coupled with freezing Siberian winds from the north make the area snowproof. Scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada estimate that it will be the only Olympic City to still be able to host future games into the end of the 21st century.
Due to declining support from the Japanese population following the rather unpopular 2020 summer games, which due to Covid-19 were without spectators and were held a year late in 2021, the government is planning on holding a national referendum to gauge the population’s support. Hopefully, Japan can put the bribing scandal behind them and the people of Japan can accept that nothing was normal during the pandemic and that the tourism boost, which was anticipated for Tokyo 2020, can indeed still happen for the Winter Olympics just 10 years later.