Krakow withdraws 2022 Winter Olympics bid
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Krakow is dropping its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics after residents voted overwhelmingly against the plan, the Polish city’s mayor said Monday in the latest blow to a race already in disarray.
Almost 70 percent of voters opted against hosting the games in the referendum on Sunday. The turnout was nearly 36 percent, enough to make the vote valid.
Krakow Mayor Jacek Majchrowski said he will inform the International Olympic Committee that he is withdrawing the city’s bid.
“Krakow is closing its efforts to be the host of the 2022 Winter Games due to the low support for the idea among the residents,” he said in a statement. “I regret that the referendum has put a definite end to ... the project that I considered to be very important for the development of the whole region.”
Krakow proposed hosting the games together with neighboring Slovakia. Some of the events were also to have been held in Poland’s Tatra Mountain resort of Zakopane.
The candidacy was rocked in April when bid leader Jagna Marczulajtis-Walczak resigned following allegations her husband offered money to journalists in return for favorable stories.
Majchrowski said that under the leadership of Marczulajtis-Walczak the previous bid team had “squandered” the popular trust and backing for the project, while the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk did not show sufficient enthusiasm.
Krakow is the second city to pull out of the contest, after Stockholm withdrew in December because of concerns over the financial costs.
The Polish city’s withdrawal leaves four contenders in the 2022 field — Almaty, Kazahkstan; Beijing; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway.
Krakow’s decision comes six weeks before the IOC executive board meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, to select a short list of finalists. With so much uncertainty, it’s possible the IOC could be left with only two uncontested bids.
The fate of two other bids — Lviv and Oslo — also remains in the balance.
Lviv’s candidacy has been in limbo amid the political crisis in Ukraine. It’s unclear whether Sunday’s election of billionaire Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s new president will allow the bid to go forward or not.
Oslo, which hosted the 1952 Winter Games, has faced large-scale public opposition to the bid and has yet to secure government financial backing. One of the two parties in the coalition government came out against the bid earlier this month.
IOC President Thomas Bach visited Norway last week and sought to shore up support for the Olympics, but no final decision from the government is expected until the autumn.
Almaty and Beijing are the only two bids that have avoided turmoil. Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, is seeking to become the first city to stage both summer and winter games. Almaty, bidding for a second time, is the commercial capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic in central Asia.
The instability of the 2022 race comes amid growing concerns over the costs of hosting the Olympics. Munich and Davos-St. Moritz decided not to bid for the 2022 Games after voters in Germany and Switzerland rejected the idea, respectively.
Potential host cities have been scared off by the $51 billion overall price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Much of that money went to long-term regeneration projects for the Sochi region, but that has not alleviated the concerns.
The situation poses a major challenge for the IOC and Bach. The German, who was elected president in September, is seeking to change the bidding process to put less financial and other pressures on prospective host cities.
The IOC will choose the 2022 host city on July 31, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson in London contributed to this report.