The race for the 2030 Winter Games may be down to Salt Lake City and Sapporo, Japan, now that Vancouver, Canada, appears to be out of the running.

British Columbia officials announced Thursday they are not supporting Vancouver’s bid, citing the “extraordinary expense” of hosting another Olympics. The Vancouver Sun reported “it’s unclear” if the bid can proceed without the backing of the provincial government.

Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said “putting together bids is very difficult and we understand the context given, why they’re withdrawing. And we wish them the very best in their future with all of the efforts that they’re doing to make the world a better place.”

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Bullock said Utah’s bidders “have had our heads down. We’re pushing hard and will continue to do so. We just know the likelihood of hosting the Games is higher at this point, so we’ll continue to do the final elements of work for the preparation of our bid.”

The International Olympic Committee recently postponed the final vote on the host of the 2030 Winter Games until sometime in the fall of 2023. But the IOC Executive Committee, which meets in early December, could still decide then to advance a city — or cities — to the contract negotiation stage.

“They may take a decision at that point in time, or they may wait until the first quarter (of 2023), given that everything has been pushed back a couple of months,” Bullock said.

The IOC’s Future Host Commission will meet in November to review the bids ahead of the executive committee meeting.

Vancouver, which hosted the 2010 Winter Games, had sought to be the first Indigenous-led Olympics, but it is not known if the four First Nations heading up the bid will be able to offer the IOC the needed financial guarantees for an event with a price tag expected to be in the billions.

British Columbia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, Lisa Beare, said in a statement money was the issue.

“I know that the prospect of hosting these Games is exciting to athletes and sports fans,” she said. “However, the Province has the responsibility to weigh the benefits with the costs and possible risks of the project. There are billions of dollars in direct costs, and potential guarantee and indemnity liability risks on this project that could jeopardize our government’s ability to address pressures facing British Columbians right now.”

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The Canadian Olympic Committee issued a statement saying a response to the province’s decision would come Friday, according to a report by the Black Press Media, but stressed it “believes in the strengths of this Indigenous-led process to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games back to the region.”

The official twitter account for Vancouver’s bid retweeted a link to a story announcing that the province was declining to support the bid, with the comment, “Awful news....”

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Bullock, who lived in the Vancouver area as a young child and helped oversee the 2010 Winter Games as a member of the IOC’s coordination commission, said he has “a deep affection for that city and wish them all the best going forward.”

Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Games, had been seen as an early frontrunner for 2030 along with Sapporo. But Sapporo is dealing with fallout from a growing bribery scandal involving an official of Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games who allegedly accepted payments from would-be sponsors.

Leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee recently made it clear they prefer Salt Lake City host in 2034 because of the potential financial hit back-to-back Olympics in the United States could have on the 2028 Summer Games being held in Los Angeles.

IOC President Thomas Bach and other officials of the Switzerland-based organization have also been critical of some of the U.S. response to Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Games despite China’s human rights record, leaving a “bad feeling” among many members.

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