STOCKHOLM -- Barely two months out from the vote, Sweden received the biggest boost yet to its bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics: Official support from the country's government.
"I'm glad that we have been able to give this backing," Sports Minister Amanda Lind told broadcaster TV4 on Tuesday. "The government is united behind the decision."
Previously, Lind's backing for the bid wasn't complemented by her fellow lawmakers, who expressed worries about spending taxpayer money on the two-week event. Political upheaval in Sweden hasn't helped either, with a new city government in Stockholm only formed in October and a two-party, center-left minority national government approved in January after being in limbo for months.
"We have already seen huge support from the public, business community and different stakeholders across the country," bid chief Richard Brisius said, "and it's fantastic that the government has now pledged its full support as well."
Support from the Swedish government came days after a rival bid from Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo — the only other candidate in the race — received assurances from the Italian government to fund security for the games and coordinate visas for visiting athletes, officials and fans.
Both candidates in the June 24 vote have been given extra time to secure government guarantees — a fundamental demand earlier in the process of previous Olympic hosting contests.
Swedish Olympic Committee chief operating officer Peter Reinebo said taxpayers would not foot the bill for the games, which would be anchored in Stockholm with events held around the country and across the Baltic Sea in Latvia. The committee has estimated it will cost 13.1 billion kronor ($1.4 billion) and has said no public funds will be used.
The Swedish bid was also helped last week when Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins pledged support. Sweden does not have a sliding venue and proposes to race bobsled, luge and skeleton events at the track in Sigulda, Latvia.
The 2026 contest is the second straight Winter Games bid race with only two candidates.
The International Olympic Committee has promised to be flexible after proposals in Austria, Canada and Switzerland dropped out lacking public support. A bid from Japan was withdrawn and Turkey's project was eliminated by the IOC.
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