IOC Future Winter Host Commission chairman Octavian Morariu updated the IOC Session on potential Winter Olympic city bidders ©IOC

Sapporo, Salt Lake City and Barcelona have expressed an interest in hosting a future Winter Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed here today.

Octavian Morariu, chair of the IOC Future Winter Host Commission, revealed the three cities were potential bidders for either the 2030, 2034 or 2038 Olympics.

The Romanian IOC member said the three projects were all at "different stages of development".

Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympic Games, is the frontrunner for 2030 and is the furthest advanced of the three possible candidatures.

The city's Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto is due to meet IOC President Thomas Bach here tomorrow, while the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) is set to make a formal decision on Sapporo entering the dialogue with the IOC later this month.

Hokkaido, of which Sapporo is the capital, is the sole municipality to express an interest in bidding to the JOC.

Sapporo officially withdrew from the race for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in September 2018 following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the Hokkaido region earlier that month.

Feasibility studies have been conducted in both Salt Lake City and Pyrenees-Barcelona, Morariu said.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has selected Salt Lake City as its partner for a future Winter Olympic candidature, but has not identified which edition it wishes to bid for.

An update from the Future Winter Host Commission was presented to the IOC Session ©IOC
An update from the Future Winter Host Commission was presented to the IOC Session ©IOC

The 2034 Games appears the most suitable at this stage given Sapporo's status as favourite for 2030, while it would also avoid any potential issues caused by Los Angeles staging the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Salt Lake City, which staged the 2002 Winter Olympics, would use 100 per cent of existing venues.

Pyrenees-Barcelona would use venues outside of Spain to cater for its lack of sliding and ski jumping facilities and has the support of the Spanish Olympic Committee.

A possible bid from Barcelona comes despite the tense political situation between Spain's National Government and the separatist movement in the region.

"Sport is recognised by everyone as a unifying factor," Morariu said.

Morariu's eight-member Commission is tasked with identifying and recommending potential venues for the Winter Olympics, effectively ending traditional bidding campaigns.

It was set up as part of sweeping changes to the bidding process passed by the IOC at its Session here last June.

The first example of the new process came when the IOC Session rubber-stamped Gangwon Province as the host of the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games here today.