The joint Austrian bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has moved a step closer ©Getty Images

The proposed joint Austrian bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games took a step forward today after councillors in Graz voted to proceed.

It means that the city's co-effort with Schladming has political backing and a letter of intent will be filed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) before a March 31 deadline.

Councillors in Schladming had already approved the plans last month with today's vote in Graz winning a majority of support from both the right-wing Austrian People's Party and the New Austria and Liberal Forum.

The joint bid could be known as "Austria 2026", according to Frankfurter Allgemeine, and a feasibility study could be available in June.

Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) President and IOC member Karl Stoss confirmed to insidethegames at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics last month that Austria planned to submit an expression of interest for 2026.

After March 31, they plan to use the next six months to formulate a budget and concept.

The IOC Session will then vote in Buenos Aires in October over which cities formally proceed to a one year candidature stage of the contest. 

Mayors from both cities - Siegfried Nagl for Graz and Jürgen Winter for Schladming - announced a plan to launch a joint bid in January.

Schladming is already an established skiing resort on the World Cup circuit ©Getty Images
Schladming is already an established skiing resort on the World Cup circuit ©Getty Images

It would be expected that Schladming would host Alpine skiing while ice sport events would take place in Graz.

An International Ski Federation Slalom World Cup leg is held in Schladming every year, while the Alpine World Championships also took place there in 2013.

Nordic competitions could take place in nearby Ramsau and Bischofshofen, it has been reported, with freestyle skiing and snowboard held in Kreischberg and biathlon in Hochfilzen.

It is possible that speed skating and sliding could take place over the German border, in Inzell and Königssee respectively.

However, the bid could face a referendum like the one which has already scuppered fellow Austrian city Innsbruck's bid for 2026.

A total of 53.35 per cent of those who voted rejected the idea in the public ballot in October.

It has not yet been confirmed if Graz and Schladming will go to the polls, however.

At Pyeongchang 2018, Stoss said the two Mayors "would like to do it without a referendum".

The Austrian bid will likely face competition from Swiss city Sion, Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada.

Swedish capital Stockholm could also enter the race, while an Italian bid from Milan or Turin is possible.

A host city for the 2026 Winter Olympics should be chosen in 2019.