A new sliding centre may be built as part of Sapporo's possible Winter Olympic bid ©Getty Images

A new sliding venue could be built in Sapporo as part of their bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games even after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation to use only existing venues.

Sapporo is planning to submit its interest to host the 2026 edition of the Games by the IOC deadline of March 31 but could delay their attempt until 2030 depending on how the contest plays out.

At present, the only sliding centre in Japan is in 1998 Winter Olympic host city Nagano, over 1,000 kilometres to the south, after the separate luge and bobsleigh track used at Sapporo 1972 were dismantled more than 20 years ago. 

Urging cities to specifically avoid building sliding centres when bidding for the Olympics was a key part of the IOC's Agenda 2020 reform process in 2014.

Both Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 ignored this advice, however, and it now looks like Sapporo could follow suit as well.

"Sliding is an issue for us," Toshiya Ishikawa, the director general of the City of Sapporo Sports Affairs department, told insidethegames here during a visit as part of an IOC observers programme.

"Currently, we are considering using the venue in Nagano.

"The IOC told us that, basically, every venue should be an existing one, not a new one, that is why we are considering using Nagano’s facilities.

"But we are also thinking about building a venue in Sapporo as well - so we need to think about this more.

"Twenty years have passed since we hosted the Nagano Olympic Games in Japan, so the facility in Nagano is getting very old.

"When we think about having sliding facilities, it is very important for athletes and students to promote sliding sport events, and also to be competitive in those sports, it is very important to have better facilities somewhere."

City of Sapporo official Toshiya Ishikawa revealed details of their potential bid ©Sapporo 2026
City of Sapporo official Toshiya Ishikawa revealed details of their potential bid ©Sapporo 2026

Ishikawa estimates that a new facility would cost around $150 million (£107 million/€121 million), which compares to the cited cost of $100 million (£71 million/€81 million) for the Alpensia Sliding Centre here.

Renovating and using the Nagano track would also cause additional expenditure, however, as well as logistical challenges.

"When we think about operation of the Games, Sapporo and Nagano are a little bit far away on different islands, so we need to think about operations, Athletes’ Village and transportation between those cities," Ishikawa added.

"We need to think about all these things."

Australia's IOC member John Coates, head of an Olympic Games Delivery Executive Steering Committee, said here last week that "our [general] position is that there is no need to build a new sliding centre" for any Winter Olympic bid, although he did add that they would take a flexible view if there were clear legacy benefits.

Ishikawa was speaking here following a visit by a delegations led by Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto to meet with IOC members and officials from the International Federations.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe also urged the country to support Sapporo 2026 during a visit to Japan House after the Opening Ceremony here and it is hoped the bid will also receive financial support from the Central Government.

Ishikawa admitted many IOC members have concerns about the prospect of a third successive East Asian Winter Olympics following Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022. 

They have until the official launch of the candidature process at an IOC Session in Buenos Aires in October to make a final decision.

Sion in Switzerland and Calgary in Canada appear their strongest challenges.

Sion, however, faces a referendum in June and Calgary is also yet to receive full political backing.

Stockholm in Sweden and the Austrian cities of Graz and Schladming are other contenders.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto pictured speaking at the Closing Ceremony of last year's Asian Winter Games ©Getty Images
Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto pictured speaking at the Closing Ceremony of last year's Asian Winter Games ©Getty Images

"We are not only concentrating on 2026 but we are thinking long-term," Ishikawa said.

"We think it is a good opportunity for us to be in dialogue with the IOC for 2026 and, at the end of March, we will see which cities will be there. 

"Finally, we will consider which year we will target for hosting: 2026 or 2030, or whenever."

The official claimed that many IOC members had praised the running of last year's Asian Winter Games in the northern city.

There were no sliding sports at that event, however.

Most of the same other venues are expected to be used if Sapporo are awarded the 2026 Winter Olympics, although extensive renovation work will be required.

This includes the Obihiro Forest Speed Skating Oval almost 200km away to the east across the island of Hokkaido.

An Athletes' Village could be held in Makomanai close to the Sapporo 1972 site.

New apartments could be built to house athletes alongside a private hotel.

Francisco Fernandez Ochoa celebrates slalom gold at Sapporo 1972 ©Getty Images
Francisco Fernandez Ochoa celebrates slalom gold at Sapporo 1972 ©Getty Images

Residents living in apartments in the 1972 Village site could then move into the new building after the Games, it is hoped.

An initial poll cited by Ishikawa supposedly found that 66.7 per cent of the city population supported the bid.

They hope that Japanese medals success at Pyeongchang 2018, as well as cost reduction measures taken in conjunction with the IOC will boost the bid.

"Before we get into the dialogue stage, we estimated $4.5 billion (£3.2 billion/€3.6 billion) including operational and infrastructure costs," Ishikawa, who remembers watching the 1972 Games as a 10-year-old, said. 

"But now we are discussing the planning with the IOC and we are reducing the costs."

A host for the 2026 Winter Olympics is expected to be made in 2019.

It is not yet clear if a joint award may be made then for the 2030 edition as well.