Sapporo is set to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics after receiving approval from the Japanese Olympic Committee.

The city of Sapporo is considering a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, which, if successful, would mean a third consecutive Asian host. PyeongChang, South Korea, is set to host next year’s Winter Olympics, with Beijing in preparations for 2022.

The Japanese Olympic Committee has now approved Sapporo’s bid after months of speculation, allowing talks with the IOC to get underway. If the dialogue stage—a new requirement—is successful, Sapporo will need to launch its official bid before a March 2018 deadline. The final list of candidates will be announced in October 2018.

Japan has hosted the winter games twice in its 100-year history—the only Asian country to have done so (until next February). Sapporo, in 1972, was the first city in Asia to land hosting duties, with Nagano the next in 1998. Since then, North America and Europe have each hosted twice.

If the Olympics were to be held in Sapporo, Mount Teine, just 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre, would likely host all alpine events—as it did in 1972. Image: MIKI Yoshihito

The IOC is reportedly on board with Sapporo’s bid, despite the unusual prospect of a third consecutive Asian games.

“The fact that Sapporo wants to come back is fantastic because obviously it’s the greatest legacy you can dream of,” said Chris Dubi, Executive Director of The Olympic Games.

“What is very pleasing for us is that cities that have hosted the Games in the past are interested.”

Stockholm (SWE), Calgary (CAN) and Sion (CHE) have also expressed early interest in the 2026 games, but none have yet to receive political backing.

Having successfully hosted once before, Sapporo looks to be a strong contender for 2026, especially considering the recent growth of winter sports in Japan and Asia.

Japan is long established as a world-class winter sports destination, but continues to attract increasing numbers of foreign skiers each season. Sapporo is within close reach of some of Japan’s most popular ski resorts including Niseko, which accounts for more than 800,000 tourists per year.

However, if the Olympics were to be held in Sapporo, Mount Teine, just 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre, would likely host all alpine events—as it did in 1972. Now known as Sapporo Teine, the city-serving resort is popular with Japanese skiers not only for the quality of skiing, but also for its stunning views of Ishikari Bay, one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful stretches of coast.