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Swiss reheat Olympic candidacy

A burdensome legacy: maintaining the bobsleigh run built for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin costs 2.2 million euros a year. © Francesco Pastorelli

Two Swiss cantons, Graubünden (Grisons) and Wallis (Valais), are now competing to host the Winter Olympics – even though voters in Graubünden rejected a proposed candidacy in 2013, and it has already failed several times in Wallis.

Obstinacy – or another opportunity? What has changed in the last two years since voters in Graubünden rejected St. Moritz’s candidacy for the 2022 Winter Olympics? That exercise cost the public purse 5.1 million Swiss francs. But the authorities in Graubünden now believe that conditions have changed, and are supporting the drafting of an application for the 2026 games by the Graubünden trade associations.

Different year, same old arguments: the Winter Olympics will supposedly provide a much-needed boost to tourism. The rejection of a referendum is also being justified on the basis of the statement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which one year ago adopted a sustainability charter. Now a number of locations are permitted to join together for the games in order to make better use of existing infrastructures, while more use can be made of temporary facilities. There will in addition be a follow-up of the effects of the games. Whether and how these good resolutions will be implemented is to be seen in 2024 and subsequently, once the charter comes into force.

In Wallis too, noises can be heard in favour of the Olympics – for the fourth time. The last time, in 2006, the IOC awarded the games to Turin in Italy. The cost: 3.5 billion euros, rather than the estimated €500 million. The sports facilities in the mountain villages are hardly used, or have simply been left to rot. The operating costs too are a heavy burden for mountain communities, with the bobsleigh run alone devouring 2.2 million euros each year.

Ultimately it is up to the Swiss Olympic Federation to decide whether Switzerland will put forward a candidate, and if so, who it will be. The Swiss Federal Council must also agree the candidacy before the electorate in the cantons concerned can once again vote on the matter. The IOC will decide in 2019 on the venue for the 2026 winter games.

Source and further information: http://olympia-nein.ch/go/aktuelles/meldungen/mmsp.php (de), http://www.cipra.org/de/news/4210 (de), http://www.srf.ch/news/regional/bern-freiburg-wallis/olympia-2026-im-wallis-kantonsregierung-schaut-genau-hin (de)

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