— Published 16 June 2023

Sweden leads the way for the 2030 Winter Games

It’s about time. With a year and a few handfuls of days to go, the race for the 2030 Winter Games is becoming clearer. The long-heralded favorite, Sapporo, has slowly retreated to the pits. In its place, a surprise contender, Sweden, is stepping up to the plate.

The President of the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK), Hans von Uthmann, announced without holding back his joy on Thursday June 15: the file is ready for the next phase. “Our preliminary study shows that Sweden has the possibility, the know-how and the will to organize the Winter Games in 2030, declared the Scandinavian leader, elected last April to replace Matt Arjes at the head of the national body. The IOC has welcomed us into the next phase.

Long absent from the race, after losing out to Italy’s Milan-Cortina for the Winter Games in 2026, the Swedes made an appearance at the beginning of the year, following the announcement that Sapporo’s bid had been put on hold. Cautious, they chose to proceed methodically, with a feasibility study.

The work was carried out without haste. It lasted four months. Earlier this week, the feasibility study was presented to the Swedish Minister for Sport, Jakob Forssmed.

Clearly, the conclusions of the study were the final nail in the coffin: after the successive withdrawals of Vancouver and Barcelona/Pyrenees, then the sidelining of Sapporo, and faced with Salt Lake City’s desire to opt for 2034, Sweden now stands on largely clear ground. After nine unsuccessful attempts, they have a historic chance of winning.

Hans von Uthmann makes no secret of the fact: the Swedes have learned from the past, from their last failure. Their plan for the 2030 Games is even more in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5. This means a minimum of new venues, controlled costs and a low-cost budget. “Our concept is even better than last time, particularly in terms of the absence of new construction,” suggests the SOK president.

Sweden’s strengths? According to Hans von Uthmann, “excellent organization, wonderful sites and a very, very welcoming country“. Basic, certainly. But that may be all it takes to win the race, as the number of officially declared candidates is now reduced to the bare minimum.

The Swedish case is not yet formally closed. But it is likely to be built around the country’s winter sports strongholds, where existing infrastructures would ensure compliance with IOC recommendations. Ice disciplines would be concentrated in and around Stockholm, Nordic skiing events in Falun, and alpine skiing and snowboarding in Åre and Östersund.

Lacking an Olympic-standard bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track, Sweden would do business with neighboring Latvia, which has sufficient facilities in Sigulda.

What next? Sweden will now continue the host city selection process by entering the next phase, a more formal dialogue with the IOC. This could last until the end of the year. In December, the IOC Executive Board is expected to announce the name of the “preferred” candidate, the only one invited to continue the process. It will be proposed for validation at the July 2024 session, in conjunction with the Paris Games.

At the same time, the Swedes will continue their work at home. The aim is twofold: to win the support of the population, with a view to a possible referendum, and to secure the guarantees of the public authorities.

Enough to win? In the current landscape, certainly. With Salt Lake City clearly leaning towards the 2034 edition, Sweden has no real opponent. Only Switzerland could stand in their way. But for this to happen, the Swiss Olympic Committee would have to step up to the plate.