Sapporo, Host of 1972 Winter Olympics, to Drop Bid for 2030 Games in Japan (UPDATE 1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A monument of the Olympic rings, built to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, is seen in Hokkaido’s largest city on Friday.

Sapporo has decided to withdraw its bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the city’s mayor said Friday.

“We must proceed with an Olympic bid with the understanding of the local people,” Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said to the press corps at Sapporo City Hall. “At this point, we cannot say that we are gaining that understanding.”

The city that had hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics will instead plan to bid for the hosting rights for the 2034 or later editions of the quadrennial sports showcase.

The formal decision on Sapporo’s bid is expected to be made Wednesday when Akimoto visits Tokyo to speak to Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita.

“I received an offer from President Yamashita to discuss bidding for the Games in the future,” Akimoto said.

Sapporo residents reportedly have strong mistrust over hosting the Winter Games in the wake of the corruption and bid-rigging scandals surrounding the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, which were delayed by the pandemic and eventually held in 2021.

The largest city in Hokkaido is believed to have changed its stance on bidding for the 2030 Olympics because it found it more difficult to gain the support of residents. Such support is among the factors the International Olympic Committee considers when it narrows down the candidates to host the Games.

Candidate cities for the 2030 Winter Olympics are expected to be narrowed down at the IOC’s executive board meeting beginning Oct. 12 in Mumbai.

In 2014, then Sapporo Mayor Fumio Ueda announced the city’s bid for the Games, seeking to be like Tokyo, the host city in 1964 as well, in hosting the Olympics for a second time. Initially, the city was aiming to host the 2026 Winter Games.

However, Sapporo switched its bid to the 2030 Games due to factors such as the major earthquake that struck the Iburi region of Hokkaido. The 2026 Winter Olympics eventually went to Milan and Cortina in Italy for the Milano Cortina 2026 Games.

Tokyo 2020 was postponed by the pandemic for a year, and in the aftermath of the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics, news of corruption and bid-rigging linked to the Tokyo Games organizing committee tarnished the image of being a host city.

Amid growing distrust among Sapporo residents, the city had halted efforts to build momentum toward the bid.

Sweden is pushing for the 2030 Winter Olympics to be held in Stockholm and looks to have the edge for its bid when Sapporo officially drops out.

Jiji Press
Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto responds to questions at Sapporo City Hall on Friday.