Sapporo mayor says Tokyo bid-rigging hurt its Olympic bid

Dec 19, 2022, 2:53 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 3:30 am
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, the Olympic rings are reinstalled after it was taken down ...

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, the Olympic rings are reinstalled after it was taken down for maintenance ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is encouraging individual sports to consider “category qualifiers” — classified in some sports as “open” categories — to ensure transgender athletes will have events to participate in once they reach puberty. The USOPC finalized its two-page “position paper” at its board meeting earlier this month and released it Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, addressing a proposed path forward for transgender participation in sports. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

TOKYO (AP) — Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and the Japanese Olympic Committee say they will “discontinue for some time” their effort to land the 2030 Winter Games because of damage done by the Tokyo Olympic bid-rigging scandal.

Akimoto suggested at a news conference on Tuesday that the bid was not being scrapped, just being paused.

The Sapporo bid has been battered by a corruption scandal surrounding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Sapporo had been considered the favorite for 2030, with Salt Lake City seen as the leader to land 2034.

Akimoto acknowledged the scandal had sullied the bid.

“We recognize we cannot move forward unless we review our operations for the 2030 Games and show that to the world,” Akimoto said. “To start with, we have to take into consideration the case of the bid-rigging allegations.”

“We will discontinue for some time any aggressive effort on such activities. We will review our bid to gain the true understanding of the people of the city,” Akimoto added.

The governor of the Hokkaido prefecture, Naomichi Suzuki, said last week that the scandal had been a blow to Sapporo’s chances.

The International Olympic Committee announced earlier this month that it might delay announcing a 2030 venue until 2024. It has been expected to make that announcement next year, but Sapporo’s scandal has presented problems.

The IOC has also said it might award the 2030 and 2034 host cities at the same time.

With Sapporo looking badly damaged, Salt Lake City is the only known candidate for 2030 or 2034. Vancouver appears to be out as a candidate after the provincial government of British Columbia said in October it would not fund a bid. The province puts its cost at about $1 billion.

The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan-Cortina, which has also been facing rising costs to fund the Games.

Support for the bid in Sapporo seems to be split, but city officials have declined to hold a public referendum. Public votes on funding the Olympics have consistently failed.

Salt Lake City has said it would prefer 2034, partly because it does not want to clash for sponsorships with the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the IOC had only two candidates for the 2022 Winter Olympics — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. It chose Beijing by four votes.

The Winter Olympics are becoming an increasingly difficult sell for the IOC, which depends heavily on public funding. It has also said it is concerned there are fewer “climate-reliable” cities able to hold the Games.

Sapporo, Salt Lake City and Vancouver have each held previous Winter Olympics.

The official cost of the Tokyo Olympics was $13 billion with about 60% coming from public funding. Some estimates suggest the costs were much higher.

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Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.

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Sapporo mayor says Tokyo bid-rigging hurt its Olympic bid