Swiss Voters Reject Bid for 2022 Winter Olympics

 

It would seem that not every country’s residents believe that hosting an Olympic Games justifies the enormous public cost in time and money.  Swizz voters on March 3 rejected a proposal to bid on hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Switzerland’s proposed bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in St Moritz and Davos has been ended after a state referendum today rejected the idea.

Switzerland has not hosted the Olympics since 1948 when the Winter Games were staged in St Moritz.

Voters in Graubünden canton voted 52.66 percent to 47.34 percent to decide against approving funding of 300 million Swiss francs (£212 million/$318 million/€245 million).

The turnout was 59 percent.

Swiss officials had estimated that the Games would cost 2.46 billion Swiss francs (£1.7 billion/$2.6 billion/€2.1 billion) to host.

The no voters rejected bid organizers’ claims that Olympic hosting would help tourism in the area and boost the local economy.

“The vote of the electors is a big disappointment,” said a statement from Graubünden 2022, whose Bid Committee included Rene Fasel, the Swiss President of the International Ice Hockey Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) ruling Executive Board. “The association Graubünden 2022 regrets this decision very much. We thank the population of the whole canton for constructive dialogue and the hundreds of volunteers for their great support.”

St. Moritz and Davos residents also voted and returned yes votes by 61 and 56.2 percent respectively.

But, all three votes had to be in favor to continue a bid that had been supported by the Swiss Government and sports governing bodies.

The main opposition came from Chur, a gateway town at the foot of the Alps and which claims to be the oldest town in Switzerland.

Jon Pult, chairman of the Graubünden cantonal group of the Social Democrats, had warned on the eve of the referendum that staging the Olympics would be “catastrophic” for the development of Graubünden’s mountain areas.

His party, along with other organizations and individuals from the political center left and green camps had established a “Olympics-Critical Graubünden Committee,” claiming that the Games would ruin the local environment.

The cantonal Government admitted it disappointed by the result.

“We had a chance to show Switzerland what we know how to do and didn’t seize the opportunity,” said Graubünden President Hansjörg Trachsel.

The Swiss Federal Council had last September ruled that public funds should cover 1 billion Swiss francs (£706 million/$1.1 billion/€814 million) of the projected shortfall from staging the Olympics.

A feasibility study published last year estimated an income of 1.5 billion Swiss francs (£1.1 billion/$1.6 billion/€1.2 billion) from hosting the Games.

Switzerland, despite being the country where the IOC is based, has not hosted the Olympics since St Moritz staged the Winter Games in 1948.

This is not the first time that a popular vote had forced a Swiss region to give up its ambitions to host the Olympics: the population of Bern massively rejected its planned candidacy to host the 2010 Games, which were awarded to Vancouver.

Sion had also failed with bids for 2002 and 2006, which were awarded to Salt Lake City and Turin respectively.

“Now, new ideas for the future of Graubünden are required,” said the bid team in its statement. “Graubünden 2022 therefore calls on all political and social forces of the canton to share thoughts about the economic future of Graubünden and its valleys and take the appropriate measures quickly.”

The Swiss vote, along with the United States Olympic Committee’s decision to concentrate on bidding for the 2024 Summer Games, throws the race for 2022 wide open.

A Swiss bid had been widely considered the favorite but their absence from the race means there is no front runner now.

Other cities who have investigated bidding include Barcelona, Lviv in the Ukraine and Zakopane in Poland while Norwegian capital Oslo may also be a candidate.

The IOC is due to choose the host city as its Session in Kuala Lumpur in July 2015.

The deadline for cities wanting to bid is November 13 later this year.

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz.  Inside the Games is a blog of the Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  The blog continues to report on Olympic issues.  This article is reprinted here with permission from the blog editors.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *