Sapporo may soon be back in the race to host the 2030 Winter Games.
If Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto wins reelection Sunday over two anti-Olympics candidates as expected, The Associated Press is reporting the northern Japanese city’s bid efforts could resume.
The bid was paused by local officials late last year amid an ongoing Olympic bribery and bid-rigging scandal surrounding the 2020 Summer Games held in Tokyo a year late due to COVID-19.
Sapporo had been seen as a front-runner for 2030. Salt Lake City is also bidding for 2030, but has stated a preference to host in 2034 instead, to avoid any financial fallout from another U.S. city, Los Angeles, having the 2028 Summer Games.
Vancouver, Canada, is a contender for 2030, too, and other Winter Games bids have emerged since the International Olympic Committee decided last December to postpone a pick likely until some time next year, when a 2034 host is now also expected to be named.
Sweden and Switzerland have both recently announced an interest in bidding. IOC officials have acknowledged confidential discussions are underway with even more places but won’t identify them or even say how many there are beyond the six previously confirmed.
Sapporo’s Olympic bid has become a key issue in the mayor’s race, according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, with the two challengers, Kaoru Takano, a former Sapporo official, and Hideo Kibata, head of a nonprofit organization, seeking an end to the bid.
A new poll by The Asahi Shimbun found nearly half of Sapporo’s voters are against hosting another Olympics, down from the just over two-thirds that opposed the bid in January. Sapporo hosted the first Winter Games held outside of Europe or North America, in 1972.
In the newspaper’s new poll, 79% of Sapporo residents said they want a referendum held on whether the bid should continue. Last summer, Sapporo’s city assembly rejected a call from the Japanese Communist Party for the public to vote on the bid.
Japan’s Olympic scandal, combined with the high cost of the Tokyo Games, have clearly affected public support for Sapporo’s bid. Six Japanese companies have been charged with anti-monopoly practices in the scandal, the AP said.
The price tag for the 2020 Summer Games was officially set at about $13 billion, but a Japanese government agency said it was actually twice that amount, according to the AP. At least 60% of the funding came from Japanese taxpayers, the news service said.
The money should have gone to social welfare programs, health care and better snow removal, according to one of the candidates for Sapporo mayor, Takano, whose campaign materials say in English, “No More” alongside the five Olympic rings, the AP reported.
Utah’s bid to bring the Olympics back to the state that hosted the 2002 Winter Games has had strong public support. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in January found more than 80% of Utahns want another Olympics.