Star quality can't save Sweden from 8th Olympic bid loss

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Sweden sent its heir to the throne, its prime minister, and a hockey icon to help persuade International Olympic Committee voters.

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Carrying the baggage of seven failed Winter Games bids in four decades, the 100-strong delegation for Stockholm-Are thought it met all the IOC's demands to host in 2026.

The mayor of Stockholm even sang the chorus of an Abba song on stage.

None of it was enough.

The Swedish bid lost a 47-34 vote — not a rout but not at all close — as IOC members chose the northern Italian bid centered on Milan and the ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo.

Italy gets its third-ever Winter Games, the second in a 20-year span, and a second for 1956 host Cortina.

Sweden continues to wait for its first.

Being viewed as reliable, trusted and pleasant partners in world sports circles did not save Stockholm and Are joining Gothenburg, Falun and Ostersund as Swedish candidates rejected by the IOC since 1978.

"Nice and losers is the worst," bid supporter Peter Forsberg, a two-time Olympic champion and two-time Stanley Cup winner, told The Associated Press. He spoke after the result was announced in the 10th hour of a voting day of closed-door questioning, on-stage presentations and news conferences.

"I heard the longer the day went it was more negative in the group, and we heard what was going on," said Forsberg, the former Colorado Avalanche center.

The Italian bid was favored even before an IOC panel published its assessment last month. The Swedes trailed badly in public support for the project, while Stockholm's city government coalition left Are to sign a key Olympic hosting agreement.

"It was quite obvious in the evaluation report that they thought we were lacking some guarantees," Sweden's top Olympic official, IOC board member Gunilla Lindberg, told The AP.

Lindberg went down fighting. In the day's most pointed comment, she ended Stockholm-Are's formal 30-minute presentation on stage with a challenge to voters.

A key policy of IOC President Thomas Bach's first eight years in office is cutting the costs of Olympic bidding and hosting after Russia's runaway $51 billion spend on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The standout feature of the 2026 bids — both seeking to avoid white elephant venues, and sharing the burden across regions — was Stockholm-Are including a bobsled track in Latvia rather than build its own.

Lindberg, a long-time IOC member, asked her colleagues if they believed in Bach's reforms: "Or is it just talk?"

"It just came. I felt it (needed to be said)," Lindberg told the AP after the vote. "We have these decisions — we need to implement them."

Instead, IOC members felt able to overlook the presence of Crown Princess Victoria and assurances on stage from Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

A burst of Abba's 'Dancing Queen' — "You can dance, you can dance, having the time of your life" — from Stockholm's mayor, Anna Konig Jerlmyr, couldn't swing enough votes.

Not could short speeches from the chairman of Volvo and the director of the Nobel Foundation, which awards the peace prize long coveted by IOC leaders.

Still, this is one country that handles Olympic rejection well.

"It's not like we lost to the worst enemy ever," Forsberg said. "We Swedes are pretty good at when we get knocked down, we come back."

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