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Olympics: Sapporo withdraws from 2026 Winter Games bid

Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, left, IOC President Thomas Bach, center, and Sapporo Deputy Mayor Takatoshi Machida speak to reporters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 17, 2018. (Kydoo)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Kyodo) -- The northern Japan city of Sapporo told the International Olympic Committee on Monday that it will give up its bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026.

The capital of Hokkaido, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, decided to give up the 2026 bid following the Sept. 6 magnitude 6.7 earthquake that killed more than 40 people and triggered a massive power outage.

The city found it impossible to proceed with the bid due to the need to repair damage from the quake and will now aim to stage the games in 2030.

The IOC approved the city's decision at a meeting with Sapporo Deputy Mayor Takatoshi Machida and Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"We achieved (the IOC's) understanding of the current situation of Sapporo," Machida said. "We will dedicate all our strength to reconstruction, and when we achieve it, we would like to go forward with bidding again after winning the support of our citizens."

Sapporo was among several cities that have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Games. Calgary in Canada, Stockholm in Sweden and Erzurum in Turkey as well as an alliance of three Italian cities -- Cortina d'Ampezzo, Milan and Turin -- are in the dialogue stage to explore the benefits and opportunities of hosting the games.

Sapporo had been hoping to push back its plan to host the 2026 Games even before the earthquake and aim instead to host the 2030 edition, by which time the extension of the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line and other infrastructure would be near completion.

However, the JOC was reluctant to see Sapporo withdraw at an early stage as it could negatively affect its next bid to host the 2030 Olympics. But the city has decided to pull out before the dialogue stage ends this fall.

The 2026 host city will be selected at an IOC session in September 2019 in Milan. Sion in Switzerland and Graz in Austria had initially expressed their interest in hosting the Olympics but later pulled out.

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