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IOC delays decision on 2030 Winter Games host, citing climate concerns

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks at the start of Monday's meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Denis Balibouse/AFP/Getty Images)

Concerned about the impact of climate change on the Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee decided to delay choosing a host for the 2030 Games for at least 13 months as it tries to figure out how to hold a February Olympics on a warming planet.

The IOC has been in conversations with representatives from Salt Lake City, Vancouver and Sapporo, Japan, and there had been indications that one of those cities soon would be invited to hold exclusive conversations with the IOC’s future games committee — a final step toward being named as host for 2030. Instead, the committee’s executive board raised several questions about climate change at a Tuesday meeting.

After a long discussion that included suggestions that future Winter Olympics be held only in places that have average February temperatures of 32 degrees and the possibility of rotating Winter Games among a small pool of places guaranteed to be cold, the executive board decided the IOC needs to study its options before making a choice for 2030. The 2026 Games will be held in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

In this World Cup ski season, climate change is winning

“We have preliminary results of leading academic research on the impact of climate change, which shows a potential reduction in a number of climate reliable hosts in the future reduction of number of climate reliable hosts,” IOC executive director Christophe Dubi said Tuesday.

Salt Lake City and Sapporo long have been considered the strongest bids, but each faced some resistance. There has been some reluctance to stage the Olympics in the United States less than two years after the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. A corruption scandal in Japan related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has dulled enthusiasm for another Games in that country.

IOC officials said the delay in naming a 2030 city is not related to concerns about the existing bids and stressed the organization needs to understand the dangers of planning future Olympics in places that will be too warm to adequately handle them. A warm late autumn in Europe wiped out the World Cup ski season’s first few events.

IOC executives said they are comfortable making a late decision on a 2030 host because the three bidding cities have hosted Winter Olympics in the past and will not need as much time as other cities to prepare for the Games.