IOC wants to cut dead wood from 2026 Games bids

Following a two-day meeting of the Executive Board, IOC President Thomas Bach also said that weightlifting and boxing could still be kicked out of future Games.

This file photo taken on 21  June 2016 shows International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach leaving a press conference following an Olympic summit in Lausanne. Picture: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The International Olympic Committee said on Friday it wants to further streamline the bidding procedure for Summer and Winter Games, ensuring only the most viable cities - ideally two - reach the final voting stage.

Following a two-day meeting of the Executive Board, IOC President Thomas Bach also said that weightlifting and boxing could still be kicked out of future Games and that there was probably a long way still to go before esports would be part of the Olympics.

He also confirmed that the swimming finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are likely to be held in the morning, to suit US audiences.

The IOC has long-recognised that bloated bidding processes and hosting regimes need to be consigned to history and has carried out “dry runs” for minor events where only two are left in the final vote.

Next on the horizon is the 2026 Winter Olympics, currently in the “dialogue phase”, with five interested cities - Calgary Canada, Sapporo Japan, Stockholm, Erzurum Turkey and a yet-to-be-determined Italian venue.

“We need a procedure that is producing fewer losers, so at the end, you have a limited number of candidates, and ideally this happens after co-operation with the candidate cities,” Bach told a news conference.

“We want a limited number, all in line with our reforms of making the process less expensive. We don’t want cities making investments when we don’t think they can win.”

Bach said that all five potential hosts said they were able to bid only because of the reforms that encouraged the use of more existing facilities.

There is an average of 80% existing venues across all five candidates compared to 60% for 2018 and 2022, while the budget of 1.7 billion US dollars is lower than the two billion of 2018 and 2022.

Turning to the Summer Games, Bach said that weightlifting’s place at Paris 2024 “remains provisional” after years of doping issues. “We need to see more federation support for the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) for their new and laudable fight against doping,” Bach said.

Concerns about governance in boxing prompted Bach to say: “we reserve the right to not include boxing in 2028.”

By then esports could be an established part of the Games and IOC officials are holding a forum on Saturday to discuss all things “e”.

“We are going to the forum with a very open mind,” Bach said. “There is still a wide range of questions and I still see no unity in the most basic of them - is it a sport?

“My personal view is that these pro players prepare and compete in a way that can be compared to those in some traditional sports. They need concentration, quick reaction, tactical understanding - they need to be not only mentally fit but physically fit.

“But I cannot say that this is agreed by everybody, and even if it were, we move on to another series of questions. Is it only for pros or also for couch potatoes sitting at home and playing for 10 minutes? What sort of games are included? Then who is our partner – the developer, the championship organiser, some teams?

“Who can guarantee that our rules are respected. There are no doping tests – they say we don’t need it because it doesn’t play a role – I’ve heard this excuse from other areas.

“I think it will take some time and until we’ve answered these questions it makes no sense to talk about the Olympic programme.”

Returning to Tokyo 2020, Bach said that swimming’s governing body FINA was happy to have the race finals in the morning local time to give the sport “the best possible exposure in the most successful country of swimming (the US).”

He said that discussions were ongoing to fit this plan in around the rest of the aquatics schedule.

Bach also announced nine new proposed IOC members though, as expected, they did not include IAAF head Sebastian Coe and Fifa President Gianni Infantino. Bach said this was because both men were facing re-election next year.