Michael Pavitt

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have had a pleasing week with the Presidents of two nations having thrown their weight behind potential bids for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

The week began with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirming to IOC President Thomas Bach in person that the nation would enter the dialogue phase as part of the new system for selecting hosts.

It is claimed Zelenskyy told Bach that Ukraine is "determined" to become a Winter Olympic host, before declaring the nation would send a delegation to the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne in Switzerland "as soon as possible."

A potential bid should not be much of a surprise with Ukraine’s Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait admitting in January that the country was "considering" throwing its hat into the ring for either the 2030 Winter or 2032 Summer Olympics. The choice of which was made clearer only a month later when Queensland was installed as the IOC’s preferred host for 2032.

The week concluded with the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) announcing its candidature had advanced after its President Alejandro Blanco met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta and Aragon President Javier Lambán in Zaragoza.

Sánchez confirmed the Government’s "firm commitment" to the project following the meeting, which he said would centre around the Aragon and Catalonia regions, with the COE overseeing the candidature.

The Spanish Prime Minister suggested the event and the proposed co-hosted 2030 FIFA World Cup with Portugal could have a similar sporting and economic impact to the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared Ukraine's interest in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared Ukraine's interest in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

"We see this candidacy as a country project with two autonomous communities directly involved that will design this project as equals," Sánchez said. "We carry out this project because we believe in the equality of all Spaniards. We must develop this project together and under equal conditions.

"2030 can become a new 1992 for our country in terms of sports, visibility for Spain and the economic development of those areas that need more investment and public attention. 

"All the values that Olympic sport represents are what we want to capture in this joint project for Aragon, Catalonia and the rest of Spain."

The public support from Sánchez and Zelenskyy comes at a time when the 2030 Winter Olympic race appears to be warming up.

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chair Susanne Lyons commented during Tokyo 2020 that the organisation was "poised and ready" to discuss a Salt Lake City bid. Lyons said that the IOC was "very well aware of our readiness and desire to bid".

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto threw her support behind a Sapporo 2030 Winter Olympic bid, as the Paralympic Games drew to a close in Japan’s capital city earlier this month.

It was unsurprising to see Sapporo's interest resurface, with IOC President Thomas Bach having offered a glowing assessment of the city’s credentials during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games last year. The bid understandably moved into the background due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Tokyo 2020, but it has now re-emerged following the conclusion of the Games.

A return to Canada has also been suggested, with Vancouver 2010 chief executive John Furlong envisaging a potential Games taking place across eight or nine communities just 20 years later.

The potential spike in interest can perhaps be associated with the afterglow of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, when public sentiment is likely to be at its highest point. Politicians are smart enough to dip their toes into the water at this point to see whether the population would be keen on the idea.

It is tempting to wonder as well whether the IOC itself has sought to test the waters to gauge the interest from potential hosts, given the recent declarations. Perhaps as a by-product of the 2032 race, I wonder whether National Olympic Committees may also be seeking to ensure they do not find themselves left in the blocks.

Queensland’s anointing as the host nation had been criticised by many other hopefuls, who believed they had been blindsided by a process that lacked transparency.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) had been among those to rail against such opaque ventures. In turn, the IOC criticised the DOSB for "incorrect statements", with the organisation viewed as failing to respond to "theoretical changes to the award procedure" last November, indicating there was a timeline in mind for awarding the event.

A timeline surely exists within the IOC for awarding the 2030 Winter Olympics under the new process. And should the five potential candidates firm up their interest as promised, it will be fascinating to see the outcome with each having potential challenges.

Vancouver has been touted as a potential host having staged the Winter Olympics as recently as 2010 ©Getty Images
Vancouver has been touted as a potential host having staged the Winter Olympics as recently as 2010 ©Getty Images

Is there enough appetite in Japan for a quick return of the circus after the Olympic fatigue and additional cost of Tokyo 2020 potentially impacting public support for a Sapporo bid? Would a Ukrainian bid be able to avoid the same fate as Lviv 2022, which collapsed amid economic and political issues?

Meanwhile, a Salt Lake City bid has the obvious issue of back-to-back Olympic Games in the United States, and might a return to Vancouver be considered as too soon following the 2010 Games? Perhaps not, given the Games has returned to Italy after a 20-year gap, though there has been a push for the 2030 Commonwealth Games to take place in Hamilton and I suspect a choice would be made to back one rather than both events.

Spain’s Prime Minister may have suggested otherwise this week, but would the country also have to choose between co-hosting the FIFA World Cup or pursuing an Olympic bid? There is also the Catalonian question, with the region’s President Pere Aragonès having declared earlier this month that it could be independent by the time a potential Games could take place.

Juan Antonio Samaranch declared last year that "total support" would be required for a Pyrenees project to succeed. One wonders whether IOC official Samaranch himself could play an important role, given he may have the inside track, in a similar way to how John Coates was considered key for Queensland and Brisbane 2032.

With five possible candidates, the IOC will be optimistic in securing a strong host for the 2030 Winter Olympics. However, as the 2022 and 2026 bid races showed, the field could easily become whittled down as the months progress.