VIENNA -- The Austrian Olympic Committee has dropped its plan for a 2026 Winter Games hosting bid centered on the city of Graz, citing a lack of political support.
Friday's decision came hours after the province of Styria announced a referendum to ask its citizens about the bid, though a public vote was not intended when the hosting plan was launched in January.
"A clear political commitment and corresponding support from the Styrian provincial government -- which the AOC has seen as mandatory from the beginning -- has been missing until today," the committee said in a statement, adding it "bows out of the idea of an Olympic bid Graz 2026 with a heavy heart."
Another Austrian bid campaign, with Innsbruck the host city, was dropped last year after more than 53 percent of the citizens in the Tyrol region voted against it.
"We regret we cannot offer our top athletes and winter sports fans the unique opportunity of having a home Olympics in the near future," AOC president Karl Stoss said.
After Innsbruck hosted the Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, its residents voted against another bid three times. Since then, Austria has had several failed bids, most recently with Salzburg for the 2014 Winter Games.
A feasibility study presented last week said the Olympics could be held in Graz "without much risk" as "cost explosions seen by Games in the past can be excluded from the start."
Graz'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 in neighboring countries.
Events were due to take place in a number of Austrian towns. Two venues in Germany were also part of the plan, with sliding events scheduled in Koenigssee and speed skating in Inzell.
Graz's exit followed last month's withdrawal from a possible bid by Switzerland after voters in the region of Valais refused to pledge financial support for hosting the Games in Sion.
It leaves five candidates for 2026: Turin and Milan in Italy; Stockholm, Sweden; Erzurum, Turkey; Calgary, Canada; and Sapporo, Japan.
Hosting rights will be awarded in 2019.
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