Sweden is now leading the race to host the 2030 Winter Games, at least according to The Associated Press.

The international news service declared Sweden has emerged as the “sudden frontrunner” despite a decision by the Nordic nation about formally launching a 2030 bid being months away.

“Still, it could be Sweden’s for the taking if it can revive most of the 2026 plan and persuade more lawmakers and voters for support,” the AP said in a story posted Wednesday, referring to Stockholm’s bid for the 2026 Winter Games that went to Milan-Cortina, Italy.

A 2030 Winter Games in Sweden? Why a possible late bid has a ‘good chance’

Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Games, has been bidding to host again for years. Sapporo, Japan; and Vancouver, Canada; are also longtime contenders, but a fourth 2030 bid, from Barcelona, Spain and the Pyrenees mountain region, fell apart last year.

But the International Olympic Committee decided in December to postpone picking a 2030 host, likely until sometime next year, and opened the door to more bids under a new, less formal process for selecting a Games site.

Sweden has already been deemed to have a good chance of getting the 2030 Winter Games by Mark Conrad, director of the sports program at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business in New York City.

Conrad told the Deseret News he believes IOC President Thomas Bach wants another city to bid for 2030, given what’s happening with the current choices. He said it appears the IOC put off finalizing a 2030 host this year “so they could bring others into the picture.”

Salt Lake City is bidding to host in 2030 or 2034. But 2030 is complicated by Los Angeles already having the 2028 Summer Games. Back-to-back Olympics in the same country are a tough sell to the IOC, and there’s fears of a financial hit to sponsorship revenues.

Sapporo’s bid has been paused to deal with the impact of Japan’s growing Olympic bribery scandal involving organizers of the 2020 Summer Games held in Tokyo a year late due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Vancouver has struggled to secure backing from the British Columbia government, which rejected a request to pledge more than $1 billion towards hosting what would be the first Indigenous-led Olympics.

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While 82% of Utahns backed another Winter Games in the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, public support is an issue in Sapporo and Vancouver and has been for Stockholm in past bids.

Sweden has hosted only a single Olympics, the 1912 Summer Games, and has tried eight times for a Winter Games. Nine years ago, Stockholm dropped a bid for the 2022 Winter Games that ended up being awarded to Beijing, citing political opposition to the cost.

For its 2026 Winter Games bid, Sweden attempted to reduce the price tag by proposing the bobsled, luge and skeleton events be held at an existing sliding track in another country, Latvia.

It’s not clear what city Swedish Olympic officials would put up for 2030. Ostersund, Sweden, competed against Salt Lake City for both the 1998 Winter Games that were awarded to Nagano, Japan, and the 2002 Winter Games.

Swedish Olympic officials met with the IOC at the organization’s Swiss headquarters last month. On the way home, “we realized, ‘Hey, there really is an opening,’” Swedish Olympic official Hans von Uthmann told the AP.

Although insidethegames.biz reported a feasibility study is due to be presented in April to Sweden’s national Olympic committee, von Uthmann told the news service there is a June target for finishing what largely will be a reboot of the 2026 bid.

“We had a very strong concept and very good offer for the 2026 Olympics,” von Uthmann said, “and we will build on that.”

Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, told reporters Thursday he’s hopeful the IOC will award both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games at the same time, likely within the next 12 to 18 months.

“We just want a Games. We’re so excited (for) either ’30 or ’34. From our perspective, ’34 is better because ’30 has some challenges being so close to L.A.’s Summer Games in ’28,” he said, adding, “we could make it work, but we really prefer ’34.”

Thanks to the delay in the 2030 decision, a dual award is back on the table as a way to give the IOC more time to consider a plan to rotate future Winter Games between a group of cities chosen for their ability to withstand climate changes.

That, Bullock said, “would be great for us. Because we could get ’34 awarded and we don’t have to wait another four years. Because I don’t know about you, I’m impatient. I want these Games awarded now and we’re working very hard.”

The potential new competition from Sweden or any other country doesn’t bother the CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland. Salt Lake City’s bid is “difficult to beat,” she said Thursday, pledging the Olympics are coming back,

“Salt Lake is going to host a Winter Games again,” Hirshland said. “As we said, our preference is ’34. So if other entities come online for ’30 that have viable bids, then we direct our attention to ’34. If that doesn’t happen, we direct our attention to ’30.”