June 23, 2019 / 5:08 PM / 23 days ago

Swedish PM Lofven says country ready to host 2026 Winter Games

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven made a last-minute effort to back Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympics bid on Sunday, saying his country was ready to host the Games and deliver on its promises should the International Olympic Committee pick it.

IOC President Thomas Bach attends a meeting with the Stockholm Are 2026 bid delegation including Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Crown Princess Victoria ahead of the designation of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games host by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The Swedish capital is up against Italy’s Milan, with the two cities left as the only bidders in the race, after four others pulled out earlier in the process, scared off by the cost and size of the Games.

The IOC will elect the winner in a vote on Monday.

Lofven was speaking after a meeting of the Stockholm bid delegation with IOC President Thomas Bach, less than 24 hours before the Olympic body is to elect the winning candidacy.

“Sweden stands ready to host the winter Games of 2026. The Swedish government stands fully behind this candidacy and we look forward to delivering it,” Lofven told reporters.

Lofven is heading a delegation that also includes Crown Princess Victoria, who had a brief walk with Bach on the terrace of the Olympic museum that overlooks Lake Geneva.

Sweden, a winter sports powerhouse, hosted the summer Games in 1912 but has never staged the winter Olympics.

“It feels kind of weird historically,” said Swedish IOC member and retired Olympic high jump champion Stefan Holm. “Norway has staged them twice and Sweden never had them.”

“For me it has been a childhood dream for Sweden to host the Games.”

The Italian delegation also met Bach, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expected to join up on Monday to be part of the official bid team.

Italy has hosted the winter Olympics on two occasions, most recently in 2006 in Turin.

“I feel confident,” said Italian Olympic Committee chief Giovanni Malago. “Milan is among the best of Europe and probably one of the best cities in the world.

“We have 83 percent support across Italy for the Games and 87 percent in Milan. I am optimistic.”

Stockholm and co-hosts Are trail the Italian bid which also includes Cortina d’Ampezzo, hosts of the 1956 winter Games, in terms of domestic support from the population.

Just over half of Swedes are in favour of their country getting the Olympics compared to well over 80 percent in Italy, according to a recent IOC-commissioned poll.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Christian Radnedge

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