Christophe Dubi said the seven contenders represent a strong line-up ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Director of the Olympic Games Christophe Dubi believes that the seven bids announced on the start-line in the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games race represents "a very strong line-up".

He also expressed confidence that all seven to have confirmed official interest could still be in contention when the Games are awarded in September 2019.

Graz in Austria, Calgary in Canada, Sapporo in Japan and Stockholm in Sweden were all named as contenders today.

They are joined by Sion in Switzerland, Erzurum in Turkey and a joint Italian bid from Milan, Turin and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

After several bid cities for the 2022 Winter Games, which will be held in Beijing, pulled out of the running due to rising costs and local opposition to leave a two-horse race with Almaty, the IOC have been keen to revitalise the bidding process. 

This has led them to introduce reforms, under Olympic Agenda 2020 and the "New Norm", which aim to make the Games more appealing to hosts by making them cheaper and more sustainable.

The IOC claim that these reforms have led to a large increase in interested bid cities for the Games, although the threat of referendums could still lead to drop-outs.

"With the New Norm, we have created conditions for projects to be very strong," Dubi said.

"And those projects in some cases will go to referendums - others not necessarily.

"What is really important is that we start from a very strong line-up.

"We have conditions where the value proposition of hosting the Games is underpinned by more flexibility, cheaper ways of doing things and intelligent solutions that will be reused over time.

"What we are saying is that, now, taking part in a lighter and cheaper [bid] process when trying to organise the Games, is simpler than in the past.

"We have the right material to work from.

"Seven cities entering the conditions by the IOC Session mean that we will have a very strong project."

The IOC say that Sapporo will not be at a disadvantage, despite Asia hosting three Olympics in a row ©Getty Images
The IOC say that Sapporo will not be at a disadvantage, despite Asia hosting three Olympics in a row ©Getty Images

Dubi also said that the attempt from Asian bidder Sapporo will not be at a disadvantage, despite the continent hosting three consecutive Olympic Games - Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.

"What we are looking for are intelligent projects - value propositions that have a strong vision and align with the long-term development plan of the city," he said.

"We will be looking at this project with this state of mind."

Dubi said that, unlike the process for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games, which resulted in a double award to Paris and Los Angeles respectively, there are no plans for a simultaneous decision regarding the 2026 and 2030 events.

The IOC themselves referenced today the United States Olympic Committee's interest in the latter edition.

"This is not the case," Dubi said on the possibility of another joint award.

"At this stage, we are looking into 2026 and this is the focus.

"However, it is interesting that already at this stage we have cities saying 'we are not in for 2026 but we are really interested in 2030'.

"The great thing about the new procedure is that the dialogue can already start with these cities even though they will not be bidding for 2026.

"We are interested to hear about their project for 2030 and also input into this project."

The host city for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games will be decided at the IOC Session in September 2019.

This is scheduled for Milan, but would have to be switched if the Italian bid remains in the frame.

Official candidates will be announced at this year's IOC Session in Buenos Aires in October after the seven have provided more details of their bids.