By Nick Butler

Sapporo is planning to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, the city's Mayor has revealed ©Getty ImagesSapporo has become the latest city to throw its proverbial hat into the ring as a potential location for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The Japanese city, which in 1972 became the first Asian Winter Olympic host and is also the location for the 2017 Asian Winter Games, claims to have support from two thirds of the population.

"Hosting the Olympic Games will lead Sapporo to a new stage," Mayor Fumio Ueda told a city Assembly Meeting, according to Kyodo News.

"An atmosphere to proceed to the dream [of hosting the Olympics] is being nurtured among citizens."

The potential bid has support from industry figures as well as the general public, it was added, with the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce and Industry having also requested that the Mayor launch a bid.

This comes at a fascinating time in Olympic bidding cycles, after a year in which four of the six contenders have withdrawn from the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving Almaty and Beijing as the only survivors ahead of a decision being made next July.

With the 2022 edition consequently set for Asia, and with the 2018 Winter and 2020 Summer versions having already been awarded to Pyeongchang and Tokyo, it seems unlikely that another Games would be awarded to Asia, and particularly to Japan just six years after 2020, although the possibility can certainly not be written off completely at this early stage.

The first Winter Olympics on Asian soil took place in Sapporo in 1972 ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe first Winter Olympics on Asian soil took place in Sapporo in 1972 ©AFP/Getty Images

With widespread apathy about Olympic bids, particularly Winter Olympic ones, in Europe, and with the United States the favoured location for the 2024 Summer Olympics, meaning they are less likely to launch another attempt two years later, there are not too many other contenders.

That said, Salt Lake City is one city considered a potential contender for 2026, as well as a Patagonia in Argentina and cities unsuccessful in their 2022 attempts, such as Oslo, Lviv and one of Almaty and Beijing.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) will decide in 2016 whether or not to bid for the 2026 Winter Games, it has been reported, with no final decision to be made by the International Olympic Committee until 2019.

But the enthusiasm in Sapporo has already been welcomed by JOC President, Tsunekasu Takeda.

"It's fantastic that a Japanese city is planning to bid and Sapporo is so passionate about it," he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"But there are a lot of hurdles.

"Of course the JOC would like to see the plan at the earliest opportunity and consider it carefully."