TOKYO — After finding it difficult to sell the 2026 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee finally has two countries that are all in: Sweden and Italy.

It’s Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and the self-described capital of Scandinavia, up against a joint Italian bid of Milan – a global fashion capital – and the ski resort of Cortina d’ Ampezzo.

“I will refrain from making any comments because I guess both candidate cities are in the room,” said the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, addressing a convention of 1,400 delegates from the world’s 206 Olympic committees Thursday. “They will note every word I’ve said and go home and interpret it one way or the other.”

Bach and the IOC have what they want: bids that will take the Winter Olympics back to a traditional venue after winter games in Russia, South Korea – and in 2022 in Beijing.

China got the games by attrition, winning by four votes over Almaty, Kazakhstan, after a half-dozen European bidders dropped out, discouraged by soaring costs and taxpayer backlash.

For 2026, it seems different with the IOC picking the winner in June in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Although several cities voted in referendums not to bid – including Calgary, Canada, earlier this month – and several dropped out, the two left standing have deep roots in snow and ice.

“These are two good bids but we think it’s time for Sweden,” said Peter Reinebo, the COO of the Swedish Olympic Committee.

Sweden was host to the 1912 Olympics, but never a Winter Games. Italy has had two Winter Olympics – 1956 in Cortina d’Ampezzo and 2006 in Turin – and the Summer Games in Rome in 1960.

Both bidders said they are almost ready to go with little to build. The IOC said Stockholm would construct three new venues and Italy will need one. The rest of the venues in both bids will be temporary, existing, or existing venues that will be refurbished.

Both said their operating budgets will be about $1.5 billion, which is the budget for running the games themselves.

Both downplay the need for much government spending, although Olympic costs – always difficult to track – often double or triple.

The Milan-Cortina bid already has a pledge of added funding from the national government. But most of the load will be on two wealthy regional governments of Lombardy and Veneto, and the private sector.

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