As the IOC Evaluation Commission visited Falun on Thursday, Octavian Morariu, who is leading the delegation, was asked whether he thought that the distance between the venues in Stockholm, Falun and Åre would be an issue.
“I don’t see a big problem in this,” affirmed Morariu. “We have already had this challenge of distance in the past, in both Turin and Vancouver, and those Games were great. It’s not a big issue.”
Christophe Dubi, Executive Director of the IOC, added: “Every athlete’s commission will tell you that they want to be as close as possible to the venues, and in the end, that’s what matters. The athletes.
“Take Sochi, we had three villages, and no-one complained about a lack of atmosphere – on the contrary, this was, from an athlete’s standpoint, a great experience. What you see here, in Åre, Falun and Stockholm, is that you have the athletes close by.”
Stockholm is around 600 km from Åre, less than an hour’s flight, and around 160 minutes drive from Falun. Sigulda is less than an hour from the Latvian capital of Riga, which is serviced regularly by air from Stockholm.
“Both bids are under the umbrella of Agenda 2020, and I think that the key word is flexibility, and sustainability,” added Morariu.
“We’re happy that almost 80% of the [Stockholm Åre 2026] venues are existing, or temporary ones, and this is an explanation for the distance. I think that, when balanced, the outcome of this is really positive.”
The visit is Morariu’s first leading the Evaluation Commission, and he explained that it has been extremely valuable to see the venues in person, and hear more about Sweden’s plans to host the most sustainable Olympic Games in history – delivering not just a climate-neutral event, but a climate-positive one.
“It’s an occasion for me and my team to get a first hand look at the prospective venues,” he confirmed. “It’s a big opportunity for us to learn more about the bid and understand the vision. I’m very happy to see that our directions of sustainability and flexibility are a very strong part of the bid.”
The delegation was given a presentation by officials in Falun, before being shown the venues which make up a key part of the Stockholm Åre 2026 bid.
“We had a presentation this morning from the mayor, explaining all of the facilities around and the transport schemes to get here. I was impressed to see that they have 1,000 car parking spaces. I think they have already faced this challenge, and the presentation was very strong,” said Morariu.
The Evaluation Commission will return to Stockholm on Thursday evening to continue the visit, which ends with a Press Conference on Saturday morning.
The delegation won’t visit the Latvian city of Sigulda, instead working closely with IOC experts in those disciplines to build an overview of the venue – which is proposed to host the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions – to report back to the IOC.
“The schedule for this visit is very tight, but we’re working closely with the International Federations,” continued Morariu. “We have in our team the Secretary General of the Bobsleigh Federation, who knows the sport very well, and we trust our colleagues for this.”