The IOC have approved changes to the candidature process for 2026 ©IOC/Twitter

Plans for a shorter and cheaper candidature process for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been approved here, along with other cost-cutting measures, including only using existing sliding tracks.

If the candidate city has no track already in place for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions, then the closest existing facility will be used.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is seeking to shift towards a process that will "reduce costs, simplify procedures and provide more assistance to National Olympic Committees and cities".

An invitation phase lasting a full year has been approved before the formal candidature phase is shortened from two years to one.

A report presented to the IOC Extraordinary Session here by vice-president John Coates suggested that the invitation period would last from September 2017 until October 2018.

This is expected to be more "proactive", with the IOC advising and negotiating with potential candidates over whether they should press ahead.

An Olympic Winter Games 2026 Expert Working Group will be set-up, overseen by a yet-to-be-determined IOC member, to manage this phase.

Demonstrating public support and clarifying referendums is set to be a key stage of the process.

The full IOC membership will then approve the candidates, for the first time, following an Executive Board recommendation.

This is expected to take place at some point during the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, due to take place between October 6 and 18 next year.

A summary of the approved IOC proposals to reform the candidature process ©IOC
A summary of the approved IOC proposals to reform the candidature process ©IOC

A vote would then be held a year later during the 2019 IOC Session in Milan.

Technical assistance will be provided to the candidates by the IOC in collaboration with International Federations and other stakeholders.

They will also provide support in "communication, brand management and community engagement" in a process seeking to reduce the need for expensive consultants.

The Candidature Process will be monitored by an IOC Evaluation Commission, as before, but it will focus on "tailoring" and "course-correcting" bids which have already been fully outlined. 

Four guarantees will also be sought from cities in this stage on safety and security, financial shortfall, the commitment of host country Government to respect Host City Contract and Olympic Charter and undertaking of the City and NOC to sign the 2026 Host City Contract if elected.

It is claimed that IOC members will play an increased role in this process, though a suggestion from Malaysian member Tunku Imran made during the Session to revive host city visits was ignored.

Other elements, such as an IOC Evaluation Commission report and a Candidate City Briefing in July 2019, will remain.

This follows the approval here of plans to award both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles and Paris together in Lima on September 13 this year.

IOC President Thomas Bach admitted that changes to the system are required to deal with the growing apathy surrounding bidding.

Only existing bobsleigh tracks will be used at an Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Only existing bobsleigh tracks will be used at an Olympic Games ©Getty Images

He warned that they cannot abandon traditional Winter Olympic hosts.

The last three edition of the Winter Olympics have been awarded Sochi in 2014, Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, none of which are traditionally associated with snow and ice sport. 

"We may not like this new political reality, but we cannot ignore it," the German said.

"In a nutshell, the Candidature Process which worked so well in the past has become too expensive and too onerous for this new political reality. 

"We have been asking to much, too soon of the cities.

"t is in our best interest to demonstrate that traditional winter sports destinations in the Americas, Europe or Asia are most welcome as Olympic hosts."

Only Almaty and Beijing bid for the 2022 Games after Stockholm, Lviv, Kraków and Oslo all withdrew. 

Innsbruck in Austria, Calgary in Canada, Sapporo in Japan and Sion in Switzerland are among leading possible candidates for 2026.

Swedish capital Stockholm and Almaty in Kazakhstan are more unlikely contenders.

IOC vice-president John Coates, left, presented the IOC report on changes to the bidding process ©Getty Images
IOC vice-president John Coates, left, presented the IOC report on changes to the bidding process ©Getty Images

It is not yet clear if the IOC will ultimately seek to end up with one candidate or if some sort of bidding process will still materialise.

Current reforms have focused largely on the candidature process rather than the Games itself.

The IOC have promised that they will now consider further cost-cutting measures in other areas.

The plans to only use existing sliding tracks has been approved by the the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation and International Luge Federation.

It opens the possibility for sliding venues to be used outside the host nation.

Sapporo may be forced to use a track in Nagano over 1,000 kilometres to the south if they did press ahead with their 2026 bid.

Innsbruck and Calgary have existing tracks, while Sion would be expected to use one in St Moritz 260km to the south-east.

"We are absolutely committed to be flexible and use the closely existing sliding track in order to slide closer with the IOC," said FIBT President Ivo Ferriani.

In 2014 the IOC tried to persuade Pyeongchang 2018 organisers unsuccessfully to use an existing track outside the country - potentially in Japan - rather than build a new facility.

The IOC's full recommendations on the candidature process for 2026 can be read here.