VIENNA (AP) — Innsbruck no longer plans to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics after its promise to organize low-cost and sustainable games failed to convince residents.
The province of Tyrol said Sunday it will drop plans to host the games after 53.35 percent of voters had rejected the idea in a referendum. In Innsbruck, the capital of the province, 67.41 percent of residents said 'no' to a possible bid.
Results from postal voting will be announced Monday but were not expected to significantly change the outcome.
"The decision stands," Tyrol governor Guenther Platter said. "I was, and still am convinced that our offer for re-dimensioned games would have been a chance, not only for Tyrol but also for the Olympic movement."
A feasibility study presented in June suggested Innsbruck could host the games on a budget of 1.175 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
The host city would have avoided building new permanent infrastructure with sports being spread over existing venues in the Tyrol region as well as in southern Germany and northern Italy. The Alpine skiing events would have taken place in St. Anton, biathlon in Hochfilzen, Nordic combined in Seefeld, hockey in Bolzano, Italy, and ice skating in Inzell, Germany.
Also, the concept refrained from building a central Olympic Village as athletes would have been located close to their respective venues.
In sharp contrast to the overall outcome, residents in St. Anton (85.12 percent), Hochfilzen (80.71) and Seefeld (65.40) easily voted in favor of a possible bid.
The rejection deals a blow to the International Olympic Committee as Innsbruck's plans closely followed the guidelines of Agenda 2020, the IOC's reform program that allows more flexibility in hosting the games, including the possibility of using venues in other cities, and even in neighboring countries.
Peter Mennel, general secretary of the Austrian Olympic Committee, said he was "personally disappointed."
"We have been fighting hard for this chance over the last couple of months because we are convinced that the time was right for this low-key bid by Tyrol," Mennel said.
After Innsbruck hosted the Winter Games in 1964 and again in 1976, its residents have voted against another bid two times before, in 1993 and again in 1997. Since then, Austria had several failed bids, most recently with Salzburg for the 2014 Games.
In 2013, the last time Austrian citizens were asked about hosting Olympics, Vienna had to drop plans to bid for the 2028 Summer Games after more than 70 percent of its residents rejected the idea.
The formal bidding process for the 2026 Olympics will start next year with the hosting rights to be awarded in July 2019.