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Austria's Graz will not bid to host 2026 Winter Games

VIENNA (Reuters) - The Austrian city of Graz will not bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics because it did not get the necessary political backing and support, the Austrian Olympic Committee (OeOC) said on Friday.

“With a heavy heart, the Austrian Olympic Committee has abandoned the idea of a Graz 2026 Olympic candidature,” the OeOC said in a statement.

That leaves Canada’s Calgary, Swedish capital Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and an Italian bid involving Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin as interested parties in hosting the 2026 Games, according to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcement in April.

While there had been “very constructive talks” with Austria’s federal sports minister and the chancellor, the Olympic committee did not get the necessary support from the province of Steiermark’s regional government, its General Secretary Peter Mennel told Reuters.

Asked whether Friday’s decision could be revised, Mennel said “no”.

Initially, Graz planned to build on its experience in last year’s Special Olympics, the biggest international sport event for people with intellectual disabilities, which it hosted together with Schladming.

The International Olympic committee (IOC) has struggled in recent years to convince potential candidates of the benefits of hosting the Games and about a dozen cities have pulled out.

In order to secure the long-term future of the Games the IOC in September awarded the 2024 and the 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles after they were the only remaining bidders.

The Austrian city of Innsbruck, venue of the 1964 and the 1976 Games as well as the 2012 winter youth Olympics, had its plans to bid for the 2026 Olympics derailed in October when 53 percent of voters in a local referendum were against it.

The IOC said in October it would take a more “pro-active role” with potential 2026 host cities, introducing a non-committal “dialogue stage” which will run to October, 2018.

An IOC session in October will invite candidates to bid formally and a host city will be selected in September, 2019.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, editing by Ed Osmond