Janez Kocijančič has welcomed the number of European bids for the 2026 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Janez Kocijančič has welcomed the expressions of interest from five European countries to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Graz in Austria, Erzurum in Turkey, Sion in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden and either Milan, Turin or Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy joined Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada in officially announcing their intention to bid earlier this week.

They are now each due to spend the next six months developing plans further before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decide on who to put forward to the candidature stage at their Session in Buenos Aires in October.

"It is very encouraging to see the ambition and determination throughout Europe to host the Olympic Winter Games," Kocijančič said.

"As a continent, there is no doubt that it is the strongest in winter sports. 

"This was evident in Pyeongchang earlier this year, where European athletes made their National Olympic Committees and the whole continent proud by winning 73 per cent of gold medals.

"Europe is the traditional cradle of Olympic winter sport, where exceptional athletic performance is mirrored by exceptional hosting ability. 

"I wish all five European cities the best of luck in what will be an exciting process for them. 

"I am confident that all five would host a Games that would inspire a new generation of winter athletes in Europe and make the continent proud of them. 

"Let me also mention that, with the exception of Sochi [2014], the Olympic Winter Games in the last decade have been organised outside of Europe, as will the next one in 2022."

Turin was the last Western European Winter Olympic host and is vying for the Italian nomination once again ©Getty Images
Turin was the last Western European Winter Olympic host and is vying for the Italian nomination once again ©Getty Images

All five European bids remain volatile, however, and may not necessarily make it to the October vote.

Sion must survive a referendum scheduled for June, while Stockholm is still lacking any form of Government support.

Graz stepped-in as a replacement Austrian bid after a failed referendum last year and the Italian bid is dependent on the support of the yet-to-be formed Government.

The last Winter Olympics held in Europe before Sochi 2014 was in Turin in 2006.

Four European bids made it to the 2013 startline of the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics but none remained by the time the IOC chose Beijing over Almaty in Kazakhstan as the eventual host city less than two years later.

Stockholm pulled-out due to a lack of Government backing, Lviv abandoned their bid due the Ukrainian political crisis and Kraków failed a referendum.

Oslo narrowly won a referendum but their bid collapsed less than a year later due to declining public and political support.

Davos and St. Moritz in Switzerland and Munich in Germany - the runner-up behind Pyeongchang in the 2011 vote to host the 2018 Games - also failed public ballots over whether to attempt a bid in the first place.

Kocijančič claimed that the IOC have "reinvigorated interest in hosting the Games" due to New Norm reforms which offer a "cost-efficient, transparent and flexible delivery of the Games from candidature through to legacy".

"I would also like to congratulate the IOC for adapting the candidature process to make it more viable and sustainable," he said. 

"This is evident in the initial interest we have seen; to have seven interested cities across three continents is a great achievement."

A 2026 host is due to be chosen next year.