GENEVA (AP) — The Italian bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo looked stronger than the Stockholm-Are project in an IOC analysis of the candidates published Friday.
Polling by the International Olympic Committee, which typically looks to get a warm welcome from host nations, showed "83% support in Italy" and "55% in favor in Sweden."
The evaluation report said the Swedish bid team "considers such figures to be high in the Swedish context."
The 144-page document was produced for IOC members, with about 90 of them set to pick the winner on June 24 in Lausanne.
To have 55% public support was "huge" for Sweden, where the people's mentality was to be questioning, bid chief executive Richard Brisius said.
"'If you say yes, I'd rather say no to challenge you.' Actually, I'd be worried if everyone was totally behind it," Brisius said in a conference call.
Italian public authorities have provided more financial guarantees than in Sweden to underwrite billions of dollars in operating and security costs. Regional authorities in Lombardy and Veneto — "two of the wealthiest regions of Italy" — are the "driving forces behind the candidature," the report said.
The Swedish bid lacked "binding venue funding guarantees" for the athletes village in Stockholm and the two new sports arenas planned, for speedskating and a venue to be shared by cross-country skiing and biathlon.
"We have the strongest letter of intent you can write, even if you don't already have the land," Brisius said.
The IOC evaluation team suggested using existing ski venues in Falun and Ostersund.
The Italian bid has private funding in Milan for the only new arena, for hockey, and an athletes village being built as "much-needed housing" for university students. Both projects are planned to be built regardless of the hosting vote result.
The IOC report also said Stockholm is "not an official Host City," with authorities in the ski resort Are signing key Olympic contracts.
Brisius said this option was picked "in collaboration with the IOC" during talks last year to create a Stockholm city government coalition.
With a strong emphasis on cutting costs by using existing venues, the Olympic report is positive about Stockholm-Are using a bobsled course in Sigulda, Latvia.
"This would give Latvia an Olympic experience the country might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy," the report said about the venue 460 kilometers (285 miles) from Stockholm across the Baltic Sea.
"An Olympic Winter Games in Sweden would feature athletes competing in first-rate venues packed with knowledgeable and passionate fans, including many from Nordic countries," the report said.
Italy also was highlighted for its "passionate fans, knowledgeable volunteers and skilled event organizers (which) would all combine to deliver an outstanding winter sports experience."
IOC experts did suggest cutting Bormio as one of the two Alpine ski venues to ease possible logistics issues.
For the second straight Winter Games vote, the IOC has been left with only two candidates. Beijing won narrowly over Almaty, Kazakhstan, to get the 2022 Olympics after several contenders withdrew lacking public support for a project widely seen as too expensive.
Two European candidates for 2026 remain after contenders including Graz, Austria; Calgary , Canada; Sapporo, Japan; and Sion , Switzerland, all dropped out. The IOC also eliminated the Turkish bid of Erzurum from the contest.