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After years of struggle, Olympics see uptick in cities interested in hosting

Recent years have seen city after city back away from the prospect of hosting the Olympic Games, frightened by the cost of the massive sporting event.

Now, Olympic leaders hope that trend is shifting.

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Seven cities have officially expressed interest in bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday.

"The IOC has turned the page with regard to Olympic candidatures," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "Our goal is not just to have a record number of candidates, but ultimately it is to select the best city."

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The potential hosts are: Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; Cortina d'Ampezzo in conjunction with two other cities in Italy; Sapporo, Japan; Stockholm, Sweden; Sion, Switzerland; and Erzurum, Turkey.

Just because these cities have entered into an initial "dialogue stage" of the process does not mean they will eventually submit a bid.

The Games cost billions of dollars and, despite their significant television revenues, have a history of running over budget. Competition for the 2022 Winter and 2024 Summer Games saw multiple candidates drop out, in some cases because the public pushed back in referendums.

IOC officials hope this time will be different as they solidify a series of "Agenda 2020" reforms designed to trim the expenses.

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Among other things, the new process allows for informal talks so that interested cities can assess their chances before spending too much on bidding. Candidates have been encouraged to use existing venues and spread costs by hosting jointly with nearby cities.

Last summer, the IOC got two hosts in one vote, awarding the 2024 Summer Games to Paris and naming Los Angeles for 2028. Both have insisted they can maintain a reasonable budget.

"The reforms laid out by Olympic Agenda 2020 created a clean, clear candidature process for Los Angeles," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "And many cities from around the world will benefit from these reforms as they bid in the coming months."

There had been speculation the U.S. would put forth a candidate for 2026, but officials worried that any such effort might conflict with L.A.'s preparations.

On Tuesday, the IOC said it expects an American city to enter the competition for 2030.

As for the potential 2026 candidates, they now begin the period of technical discussions with Olympic leaders. The IOC is scheduled to select a city in September 2019.

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