Sweden v Italy as IOC votes to choose 2026 Winter Olympics hosts
International Olympic Committee members will decide Monday between bids by Stockholm/Are and Milan/Cortina d'Ampezzo in the race to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
The vote to choose a winner from the Swedish and Italian rivals is expected to be closer than the 2015 vote when Beijing beat the Kazakh city Almaty to land the 2022 Winter Games.
On the road to the 2026 decision, bids from Calgary, Graz in Austria, Japan's Sapporo and Sion in Switzerland have fallen by the wayside, mainly because of concerns over the cost or a lack of popular support.
A bid by the Turkish ski resort of Erzurum was ruled out by the IOC in October 2018.
The bid by Stockholm and the Are ski area -- which hosted the World Ski Championships in February -- appeared to be running out of steam a few months ago due to a lack of funding commitments, but the government has now swung behind it.
On the eve of the vote, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said after meeting IOC president Thomas Bach: "Sweden is ready to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2026 and the Swedish government is very supportive."
Swedish high jumper Stefan Holm, the 2004 Olympic champion in Athens and now a member of the IOC, said winter sports powerhouse Sweden had a strong claim to host the Winter Games for the first time.
"Sweden deserves the Games -- Norway has had them twice, so it would be fair for Sweden to have them," he said, adding, in a veiled jibe at Italy's economic slowdown, that his country was "economically and politically stable".
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was present in Lausanne on Monday and was to address the IOC members before the decision is announced at 1600 GMT.
In the absence of Conte on Sunday, the Italian delegation was led by Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian Olympic Committee and head of the Milan bid.
"We have a fantastic bid," Malago said after meeting Bach.
"Milan represents not only for me but for the rest of Europe the best city in Europe and perhaps in the world," he added.
Marcello Lippi, the veteran Italian football coach now in charge of the China national team, was also in Lausanne to support the Milan bid.
A total of 82 IOC members are reportedly likely to cast votes in the ballot to decide the host city, meaning a simple majority of 42 will be required to win.
Italy has twice hosted the Winter Olympics -- in 1956 in Cortina d'Ampezzo and 2006 in Turin.
Sweden has only hosted the Summer Olympics, in 1912 in Stockholm.
© 2019 AFP