Janez Kocijančič is hopeful a European city could stage the 2026 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

European Olympic Committees President Janez Kocijančič is hopeful the Winter Olympics could return to Europe in 2026, following the continent's success at Pyeongchang 2018.

The Slovenian praised the achievements of National Olympic Committees (NOC) from the continent, who came away with 68 per cent of the 307 medals awarded at the Games in South Korea last month.

A total of 22 of the 30 medal winning nations in Pyeongchang were from Europe, continuing the continent's dominance.

The neutral Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) also finished with 17 medals, including two golds.

Kocijančič claimed nations should learn from the success of Norway, who topped the overall medals table after claiming 14 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze.

Their tally of 39 medals surpassed the previous record of 37, which was held by the United States.

"I was very, very much impressed with the achievement of Norway," Kocijančič told insidethegames.

"It has a small population, but they have a population which views sport as a way of life.

"Their performances, achievements and medal success were very impressive.

"We should all try to learn from them."

Germany and The Netherlands were the next most successful European nations, as they earned 14 and eight gold medals each to end second and fifth in the overall standings.

There were also Winter Olympic landmarks for Hungary and Kosovo, with the former earning their maiden gold at the Games in short track and the latter appearing as an NOC at the multi-sport event for the first time.

The EOC President reserved praise for Norway, after they topped the Pyeongchang 2018 medals table ©Getty Images
The EOC President reserved praise for Norway, after they topped the Pyeongchang 2018 medals table ©Getty Images

Despite European success at the Winter Olympics, the appetite for hosting the Games has not been reflected by populations in cities across the continent in recent years.

Public opposition halted bids from Norway's capital city Oslo and Davos in Switzerland for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Innsbruck became the latest city to suffer such a defeat in the 2026 race, but the Austrian Olympic Committee are hopeful Graz and Schladming could be put forward as a candidate by the March 31 deadline.

Sion in Switzerland face a referendum in June over their potential 2026 bid, while Sweden's capital Stockholm is attempting to proceed despite fears a lack of political support for their campaign could sink it.

Kocijančič remains hopeful that a European city could emerge to host the Games in 2026.

"Winter Olympics are an excellent event and after a long time away, they should return to Europe," said Kocijančič, who is also a International Ski Federation vice-president.

"There has been a misunderstanding between the sport and public world, some bids have lost referendums.

"We should continue with the same ideology of the Winter Olympics and we should go on.

"I am confident the Winter Olympics will be a huge success in Europe in the future.

"I would like to see one of the European candidates win the next edition.

"I consider all the candidates are very well prepared, they are sporting nations that are very well prepared for the Winter Olympics.

"From my point of view, they would not need to invest a lot as they have infrastructure that is very good."

Sion are one of three European hopefuls for the 2026 Winter Olympics, but face a June referendum ©Sion 2026
Sion are one of three European hopefuls for the 2026 Winter Olympics, but face a June referendum ©Sion 2026

Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada are other cities likely to launch bids for 2026.

Should no European city emerge as the winners of the 2026 bid process, it would mean at least a 16 year gap absence for the Winter Olympics from the continent, following Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022.

Sochi hosted the Games four-years ago, but the aftermath has been dominated by the doping scandal embroiling host nation Russia.

It ultimately led to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspending the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in December, with athletes competing neutrally as OAR at Pyeongchang 2018.

The suspension on the ROC was ultimately lifted yesterday.

Kocijančič expressed his opposition to Russia being made to compete neutrally last year, but now believes the IOC decision was a good one.

"I think that the policy of the IOC should be inclusive, but there were big problems in this case," he said.

"It was a tough policy of the IOC, but I think the solution was a good one.

"I think they have, maybe, resolved the problem for the time being.

"From my point of view, the situation is resolved.

"There needs to be much more collaboration in the future and everybody needs to learn the lessons out of it.

"We have learned from this situation and I am quite confident it will not appear again."

The Slovenian also made a point of praising the IOC's efforts to have North and South Korea march together and compete as a combined women's ice hockey team at the Games.