It has become a troubling pattern for Sweden.
Make it nine times that the Nordic country with a proud heritage in winter sports has put its hand up to stage a Winter Olympics, only to be knocked back.
The latest rejection came Wednesday when the International Olympic Committee opted for a late French bid — combining the snowy Alps region with the Riviera resort of Nice — to host the Winter Games in 2030 rather than ones from Switzerland and Sweden.
The Swedes are somewhat puzzled.
After all, the IOC — struggling to find options for 2030 and backed into a corner with time running out — opened the door for Sweden in January to make a bid that essentially rebooted its failed attempt to land the 2026 games, which went to Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo instead.
Sweden had support from local and national government, from the business world, and from sports organizations. A nation with a population that often struggles to get behind ventures like hosting a major sporting competition appeared all in.
And, critically, it was an economically sound and environmentally sustainable bid, following to the letter what the IOC wanted.
Still, it wasn't enough.
That's gotten Swedish Olympic leaders thinking.
“There is a pattern,” Hans von Uthmann, president of the Swedish Olympic Committee, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “What can we learn from that pattern? Is the Swedish way not compatible with what the IOC expects? I don’t know.”
For Von Uthmann, it's difficult to accept that Sweden — a country that has spawned winter sports greats like alpine skier Ingemar Stenmark, cross-country skiers Gunde Svan and Sixten Jernberg, and hockey star Peter Forsberg — has never hosted a Winter Games. This latest failure was especially tough to take.
“In terms of sustainability,” he pointed out, "which is so often spoken about by the IOC, there were two bids (Sweden and Switzerland) that were clearly focused on sustainability, clearly focused on using existing venues and not building new ones.
“Then the Olympics and Paralympics for 2030 were awarded to someone who wanted to build two new ice rinks.”
One sticking point was the IOC saying the Swedish bid needed to have financial guarantees in place at an earlier stage of the process. Von Uthmann said, however, he was told by the IOC that was a part of the next stage of dialogue.
So, is there a wider, cultural factor at play? Is it a case of Sweden — widely regarded as a reserved nation — being too cautious and not showing enough desire in the bid process? Or maybe the bid team didn't do enough behind-the-scenes work in the shadows to further its case?
“We did it the Swedish way," Von Uthmann said. "This is the way we always do it. We are proud of doing it that way.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to others and learn from others. Of course we must. But still, stick to the values and standards that are so clearly Swedish. I think we did. Our expectations were positive because it’s our feeling that we were meeting the IOC requirements. Obviously not."
With the pain and sadness still raw, Von Uthmann said it was “too early” to say if Sweden was too burnt to think about bidding for future Winter Olympics.
With Switzerland gaining “privileged dialogue” status with the IOC for 2038, the earliest the Swedes could realistically host a Winter Olympics would be in 2046.
“We've been more successful than before in Sweden in raising not only awareness but also engagement and commitment,” he said. “But it's not enough for international arena or the IOC. Why that really is, is too early to say.”
For the moment, Von Uthmann is happy that at least the bid got politicians and business on the same page, and strengthened relations between elite sports in Sweden.
“That’s what is on our agenda looking ahead,” he said.
AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press