Another Olympic Bid Falls To A Referendum, This Time A Swiss Winter Games Candidate

In a blow to Swiss Olympic, Switzerland’s governing sport body, funding for a bid by the Canton of Graubünden to host the Olympic Winter and Paralympic Games in 2026 was resoundingly rejected by a referendum held Saturday.

St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz, Switzerland.

For Graubünden, the rejection of the project by 60 per cent of the voters was an even bigger push-back than a similar poll held four years ago when just over 52 per cent were against bidding for the Games.  This time voters were against funding a bid campaign with an estimated cost of USD $25.2 million.

With Graubünden forced to leave the race, only a single bid led by Sion remains in contention when on March 7 the Swiss Olympic Executive Council determine whether Switzerland will forward a bid for the 2026 Games.

The local government and the business community in Graubünden campaigned for an Olympic bid, saying that such a major event would boost tourism and help renew the region’s infrastructure.  But critics, reportedly from the political left, said the campaign was too opaque and one-sided in favour of funding the bid.

Saturday’s referendum defeat underlines the growing opposition against Western cities bidding for the Games.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hoped to manage public perception over the rising costs and risks of hosting the Games with the launch of Olympic Agenda 2020 bidding reforms, but so far any change remains to be seen.

A bid planned for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games by Davos, the lead city of the Graubünden plans, was abandoned after voters in that region overturned the project.  Munich, Germany’s bid was also defeated by a vote prior to the start of a campaign.  Later, four other European cities dropped put of the race for various political and economic reasons leaving only eventual winner Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan to campaign for the prize.

Swiss Olympic

Now in the 2024 Summer Games campaign, Hamburg’s bid was canceled when the German city lost a referendum and later Rome dropped out after a municipal political shift left the bid without needed support.  Now, referendum advocates in Budapest are just days away from potentially forcing a vote over Hungary’s bid where over 60 per cent are reportedly against plans.  Los Angeles and Paris are the other contenders for 2024.

Graubünden held the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz in 1928 and 1948, but in 1980 and 2013 voters rejected plans to bid for another Games.

The Swiss Parliament will decide in April whether to move forward with the Sion bid, which would then be submitted to the IOC as a candidate against other international cities including potentially Almaty, Calgary, Innsbruck and Sapporo.

The winner will be elected by the IOC in 2019.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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