Swiss government backs Sion 2026 Olympic bid

Twin peaks: Sion in south-west Switzerland, bidding to host the 2026 Winter Games. Keystone

This content was published on October 18, 2017 - 14:58 and agencies

The Swiss government pledged on Wednesday to throw its weight behind the Sion 2026 Winter Olympics bid. Should the bid be successful, the government’s contribution would come to almost CHF1 billion ($1.018 billion).

The news will come as a boost to local organisers, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, who have struggled in recent years to attract bids as cities grow more and more wary of hosting such large-scale events.

On Wednesday, however, the Swiss cabinet wholeheartedly endorsed the bid, and said that holding the games in Sion and the surrounding region represented a “big opportunity for sport, the economy, and society”.

"We cannot say that this bid is of an extravagant size," said sport minister Guy Parmelin, referring to the plans that the games rely as much as possible on existing infrastructure and respect principles of sustainable development.

The decentralised nature of the proposal – the games would be scattered across the cantons of Valais, Vaud, Bern and Fribourg – was also a positive element of the bid, the cabinet said in a press statement.

Hurdles to jump

The CHF1 billion figure would be used for several funding areas. Some CHF8 million will go towards funding the bid itself, which is ongoing. A final vote on the host city by the IOC will take place in summer 2019.

Should Sion be successful, CHF827 million of federal funds would then help the organisation of the games themselves; the organisers estimate the total projected costs at just under CHF2 billion.

Federal funding would also contribute towards the “adaptation of current facilities”, while the government would also fund 20% of total security costs.

Though a boon, the announcement marks just another step in the process: parliament still needs to ratify the funding, while voters in the host regions may yet have a chance to voice their opinion via referendums. Canton Valais, the core of the joint bid, will hold a referendum on the issue in June next year.

Last February, voters in Canton Graubünden scuppered a joint bid by Davos and St Moritz for the same 2026 games. Only last week, the town of Innsbruck in Austria pulled out of the race due to local opposition.

Bids from Kazakhstan, Turkey, Japan, Canada and the United States among others are still likely.

Switzerland hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948. Since then, it has submitted numerous unsuccessful bids, with Sion losing out three times: 1976, 2002 and 2006.

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