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Why ‘huge costs’ could hurt Salt Lake City’s strongest rival for another Olympics

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Ukraine team members climb on the Olympic Rings to pose for photo in the Olympic Village at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Ukraine team members climb on the Olympic Rings to pose for photo in the Olympic Village at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing. Backers of Sapporo, Japan, to hold the 2030 Winter Olympics have gotten together to promote their bid. The Japanese city is competing with Salt Lake City, Vancouver, and a Spanish group that wants to return the Olympics to Barcelona.

Dmitri Lovetsky, Associated Press

The “huge costs” of hosting another Olympics in Sapporo may be affecting support for the Japanese city’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games.

Sapporo is seen as Salt Lake City’s strongest competitor for the next Winter Games to be awarded by the International Olympic Committee. Other cities bidding are Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain, along with the Pyrenees mountain region.

The IOC could narrow the field to a single city in the coming months under a new, less formal bid process being conducted largely out of the public eye, although the final vote would likely come next year. There is also the possibility that both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Gamescould be awarded at the same time.

The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, acknowledged earlier this week that the biggest hurdle facing Sapporo, the host of the 1972 Winter Games, is the billions of dollars that would have to be spent, according to The Associated Press.

“From both inside and outside our country, there are many views about hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Yamashita is quoted as saying, among politicians and business leaders online — and in Sapporo — talking up the bid. “I realize there are also concerns about the huge costs involved.”

Still, at what the wire service described as an “All Japan” meeting to promote Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games, the Japanese Olympic leader also pointed out that one of the major expenses associated with hosting, building new venues, would be limited.

The head of Sapporo’s bid committee, Keigo Iwata, said he believes the bid has the nation’s backing. The 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, delayed until last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw costs soar by several billion dollars. The official $13.6 billion cost is believed to be much higher.

“I am very confident that we have an all-Japan approach to our bid,” Iwata said.

A three-member technical team dispatched by the IOC is quietly visiting the contenders for 2030 to review plans. So far, they’ve seen Salt Lake City and Vancouver, and are headed to Sapporo later this month but apparently have yet to schedule a trip to Barcelona.

Sapporo’s $2.6 billion proposed bid budget includes using facilities built for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, such as the bobsled, luge and skeleton track. Nagano, which was selected over Salt Lake City by the IOC in 1991, just recently paid off its Olympic debts, according to the AP.

Salt Lake City went on to be chosen as the host of the 2002 Winter Games and is now vying for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games. Utah bidders say the cost would be $2.2 billion since the venues from two decades ago have stayed in use, including by elite athletes.