Sapporo rejects referendum on Olympics bidding


TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s northern city of Sapporo on Monday rejected a referendum to give voters a choice over bidding for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

The city’s assembly, which is controlled by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party – which also heads the national government – declined to hold a public vote. The meeting was streamed online.

Sapporo is known to be one of three candidates interested in hosting the 2030 Winter Games. The others are Salt Lake City and Vancouver. Spain has also shown interest.

Salt Lake and Vancouver do not require referendums. One of the complications of a Spanish bid is a push to hold a public vote.

When given a choice, voters in other cities have consistently rejected holding the Olympics, often citing costs and disruptions.

Sapporo officials have said no referendum is needed as the poll shows 52% favor an Olympic bid.

Hitoshi Murakami, a Japanese Communist Party member who proposed the referendum, said the poll results were skewed as the poll was held shortly after the postponed Tokyo Olympics ended last year.

Tokyo Games’ cost has been estimated at $13.6 billion, most of which was public money. Several government audits have shown that official costs are much higher.

The International Olympic Committee is expected to award the 2030 Olympics at meetings in May in the western Indian metropolis of Mumbai. It could also award the 2034 Winter Olympics.

Sapporo has estimated the cost of hosting the Winter Olympics at $2.6 billion, although an accurate estimate of the cost is impossible nearly eight years in advance. In addition, Olympics routinely exceed budget.

Sawako Ishikawa, a MP who spoke in favor of the referendum, said people should be able to voice their opinion about an event that is crucial to the city’s spending and image.

Hideki Maruyama, a lawmaker who opposed the referendum, said the bidding process was already making progress. He said there have already been polls, several surveys and discussions with business leaders.

Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics, with Los Angeles taking in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia, in 2032. The 2026 Winter Olympics will be in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo.

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