Swedish Olympic official: Stockholm would bid again for 2022 Winter Games if it had the chance

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LONDON — If the IOC is willing to reopen the bidding to host the 2022 Winter Games, Stockholm would be happy to jump back into the race.

The Swedish capital pulled out in January after politicians refused to give financial backing, becoming the first of four cities to withdraw from a field that now has only two contenders — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — in the running.

Stefan Lindeberg, president of the Swedish Olympic Committee, said Tuesday that Stockholm would not have dropped out if it knew then about the changes in the bidding process that are currently being put into place by the IOC.

Lindeberg said Stockholm would bid again now — if it had the chance — because of a "change in attitude" of the International Olympic Committee as it revamps the candidate city procedure.

"If we would have the discussion in January that we are having now, I would say we would still stay in this (race)," he said the Host City Bid to Win conference in London.

Since Stockholm's withdrawal, Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine, and Oslo have also withdrawn their bids. Before that, cities in Switzerland Germany abandoned proposed bids after they were rejected in referendums. Many cities have been scared off by the $51 billion price tag associated with this year's Winter Games in Sochi.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Lindeberg said it would make sense for the IOC to reopen the 2022 bid process to allow Stockholm and any other interested cities to join the depleted field, but acknowledged that is unlikely to happen.

After Oslo's withdrawal earlier this month, IOC President Thomas Bach ruled out reopening the bidding in the middle of the race. The host city will be selected next July at an IOC assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"There is one good argument to open up the bidding — to show the world that we are changing, and we want to do this change as quickly as possible, but I don't think it will happen," Lindeberg told the AP. "I can understand why (Bach) does not want to open the race, not wanting to show there is a crisis and whatever. I respect that."

Bach is pushing a package of reforms — "Olympic Agenda 2020" — that will be voted on by the full IOC in December in Monaco. The changes include a bid procedure that Bach called "more of an invitation for discussions and partnership with the IOC rather than just an application for a tender."

IOC vice president Craig Reedie said Sweden would be free to propose a reopening of the procedure after the reforms are voted on, but added that any change is unlikely.

"It's quite difficult to turn around to your two existing bidders who have done everything correctly and say, 'Sorry, we'd like to have a couple countries in here, so we're going to change the rules,'" Reedie told reporters. "I think it's complicated."

Lindeberg said Stockholm would start focusing on a bid for the 2026 Winter Games. Sweden has never hosted the Winter Olympics, with Ostersund, Falun and Goteborg all having mounted failed bids.

"If there's any country in the world that deserves to run the winter games, it's Sweden," Reedie said. "They have bid and bid and bid and they have never been successful. They are a major winter sports country."

Lindeberg said Stockholm backed out in January because of concerns over costs, the environment, post-games use of venues, the environment and other issues.

"All the politicians saw was risk, risk and risk," he said.

Lindeberg praised the reforms initiated by Bach on the bid process, the publication of the host city contract and the IOC commitment to provide $880 million in revenues to the host city.

"If you look at what happened since Stockholm pulled out in January, there is a change in attitude from the IOC," he said. "We can see what Thomas Bach is communicating all the time and how eager he is to listen and discuss."

Reedie, meanwhile, said the IOC was reviewing the technical manuals that were published in the Norwegian media and portrayed as making "demands" on the host city for catering to IOC members.

"Let me make this absolutely clear, they are not demands," Reedie said. "But if people believe that we are making unnecessary demands ... then we need to change the presentation."


Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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