Sapporo rejects holding referendum over bidding for Olympics

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

The city’s assembly, controlled by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party — which is also in charge of the national government — turned down having a public vote. Its meeting was streamed online.

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

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

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

Sapporo officials have said there is no need for a referendum since its polling shows 52% to be in favor of an Olympic bid.

Hitoshi Murakami, a member of the Japanese Communist Party that proposed the referendum, said the poll results were skewed since the survey was held shortly after the end of last year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo Games costs have been placed at $13.6 billion, the majority of which was public money. Several government audits have shown the official cost to be much higher.

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

Sapporo has placed the cost of staging the Winter Olympics at $2.6 billion, although accurately estimating costs almost eight years in advance is impossible. In addition, Olympics routinely run over budget.

Sawako Ishikawa, an assembly member who spoke in favor of the referendum, said people should be allowed to express their views on an event that’s crucial for the city’s spending and image.

Hideki Maruyama, a legislator opposed to the referendum, said the bid process was already moving forward. He said public opinion surveys, various research and discussions involving business leaders had already taken place.

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


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