Voters in Sapporo won’t have a say in whether a bid for the 2030 Winter Games should go forward, local leaders of the northern Japanese city have decided.
Sapporo is seen as Salt Lake City’s strongest rival in the race to host the next Winter Games to be awarded by the International Olympic Committee. Other contenders are Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain, and the Pyrenees mountain region.
The decision by the Sapporo assembly not to hold a referendum comes after the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, acknowledged concerns about the “huge costs” of hosting another Olympics in Sapporo, the site of the 1972 Winter Games.
Supporters of Sapporo’s bid said there was no need for a referendum because recent polling showed a majority of the region’s residents want to try for another Olympics.
The referendum was proposed by the Japanese Communist Party, according to The Associated Press. Hitoshi Murakami, a member of the party, said poll results showing support for the bid weren’t accurate because the survey was done soon after the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo that were delayed a year due to COVID-19.
The poll was conducted in March by mail, online and through surveying people on the street, The Japan Times reported, mostly of Sapporo residents. Responses ranged from 52% support among those surveyed by mail to 65% support among those questioned on the street.
Utah held a referendum in 1989 on an earlier bid that led to Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Games, which passed with 57% of the vote even though it was tied to a tax diversion to build facilities. But the state’s current bid for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games is relying on past polling to demonstrate public support.
Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said putting a bid on the ballot is ultimately up to political leaders, and they “have noted the significant support in our community, being over 80%, and they’ve been unified in their support through various forms of legislation in the past several years.”
A poll by Utah’s Olympic Exploratory Committee in late 2017 found 89% of Utahns backed bidding for another Olympics. Utah was selected a year later by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to bid on behalf of the United States for a future Winter Games.
While the focus is on 2030, that could shift to 2034 if the USOPC-led negotiations with Los Angeles, host of the 2028 Summer Games, over domestic sponsorships don’t work out. There is also the possibility the IOC will award both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games at the same time.
The 2030 field is expected to be narrowed down by IOC leaders to what could be a single candidate by the end of the year under the new, less formal bid process that included recent visits by a secretive technical team. A vote by the full IOC membership is anticipated in May 2023.
The finances of a future Olympics continue to be an issue in Japan, where the yearlong delay of the Tokyo Games added billions to a bottom line largely shouldered by the public. The official $13.6 billion price tag is believed to actually be much higher.
“From both inside and outside our country, there are many views about hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” among politicians and business leaders online — and in Sapporo — who support the bid, Yamashita said, according to AP. “I realize there are also concerns about the huge costs involved.”
Sapporo’s proposed budget for 2030 is $2.6 billion and calls for using some of the facilities built for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Utah’s budget for 2030 is $2.2 billion, money that would come mostly from sponsorships, broadcast rights and ticket sales, not from state or local taxpayers.