Between Sapporo and Madrid, the IOC makes the big difference


Coincidence of the calendar? Surely. A full year before the decision, announced for the Mumbai session in May and June 2023, the IOC is represented this week in two of the four countries in the race for the Winter Games in 2030.

A trio of experts on Olympic matters, whose identities have not been revealed, began a three-day visit to Sapporo and the Japanese region of Hokkaido on Tuesday (May 31). Its inspection is technical. It is not meant to count as a step in the selection process. It is not for all that anecdotal.

Thomas Bach, for his part, is going to Madrid, this Wednesday, June 1, for an express round trip. The IOC President does not intend to talk about the 2030 Winter Games during his short stay in the Spanish capital, officially dedicated to visiting a sports center for refugees in Getafe, south of Madrid. But it would be surprising if the question of the Olympic candidacy of the Pyrenees and Barcelona was not put on the table at some point or another during the day.

In any case, the concordance of the two visits, to Japan and Spain, will once again highlight the huge gap between two of the four files in the race for the Winter Games in 2030. In Sapporo, the IOC experts have been inspecting some of the sites likely to host the competitions since Tuesday, May 31. In Madrid, the promoters of the Spanish project are still looking for common ground between the regions concerned, Catalonia and Aragon, or even turning to another less conflicting option.

Japan first. Officially, the trio of IOC envoys is not tasked with assessing the chances and strengths of Sapporo’s bid. At the end of his journey, will he just distill a few “technical advice” to applicants.

Their roadmap includes a long succession of extended stops at the sites proposed by Sapporo 2030. In total, no less than sixteen facilities, in the capital of the island of Hokkaido and the rest of the prefecture, including the Rusutsu and Niseko, renowned in Asia for the quality of their slopes and their snow cover.

The trio of experts are not expected to travel to Nagano in central Japan, where the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events would be staged. There are also no plans to push the door of the Dome of Sapporo, a huge covered room currently used for the meetings of the season of the professional football league.

Spain now. Thomas Bach is due to visit the sports center for refugees in Getafe. Named after Alejandro Blanco, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), it was partly funded by Olympic Solidarity. Also on Thomas Bach’s agenda is a meeting of the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF). It must be held at the headquarters of the EOC in Madrid.

The sequence is clear: Thomas Bach’s visit to Madrid is neither remotely nor closely linked to the Spanish project for the 2030 Winter Games. Spanish approved, unanimously of the voters, the continuation of the discussions on an Olympic candidature.

Alejandro Blanco has never hidden it: welcoming Thomas Bach to Madrid without having advanced on the file would have the worst effect. The Spanish leader must however resolve to do so. After eleven meetings, the representatives of Catalonia and Aragon could not agree on a distribution of competition venues. One year from the IOC’s decision, time is playing against Spain. But the WCC still believes in it.

One question remains: when will the three IOC experts be able to travel to Spain for their technical visit? At this point, the question remains unanswered.


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