KRAKOW (Reuters) - Authorities in the Polish city of Krakow have said they are pulling out of the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics after a majority of the city’s residents voted against the bid in a referendum over the weekend.
The proposed bid, which included plans to hold some events in neighbouring Slovakia, was rejected by more than two thirds of those who voted on Sunday, leaving bid officials with little option other than to throw in the towel.
With Krakow out of the race, Ukraine’s Lviv, China’s Beijing, Norway’s Oslo and Kazakhstan’s Almaty are the last remaining cities in contention for the hosting rights.
“Today we are starting talks with the Olympics Committee on how we can withdraw from the Winter Olympics 2022 project. I think it is bad news, but this was the citizens’ will,” Krakow mayor Jacek Majchrowski told a news conference on Monday.
Many residents in Krakow, Poland’s second-biggest city, felt that some of the infrastructure needed for the games - in particular an arena for curling, a sport barely played in Poland - would turn into white elephants afterwards.
Polish officials had promised the Games would have brought with it more than 20 billion zlotys ($6.6 billion) in infrastructure investments, but many residents believe that would happen with or without the Winter Olympics.
Now that the people have spoken, the picturesque medieval town joins a growing list of potential hosts to drop out of what has become a troubled race.
Stockholm withdrew just a few months after launching a bid last year, concerned over costs and the environmental impact of the world’s biggest winter sports event.
Germany’s Munich and Switzerland’s St Moritz did not even file bids after referendum voters in those countries rejected a candidacy, also scared off by the $50-billion price tag of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Of the remaining candidates, Lviv’s hopes have been severely dented by the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine, meaning next year’s election of the host city has been virtually whittled down to just three candidates even before a shortlist is drawn up in two months.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the winning city in July 2015 but with Oslo also facing strong public and political opposition, it could become a straight race between Beijing and Almaty.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski,; Writing by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by John O'Brien