Sion, in Western Switzerland, has become the first city to enter the 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid race after the Swiss Parliament of Sport’s General Assembly Tuesday ratified the Executive Council decision made last month to pursue a third Winter Games in Switzerland.
The March 7 decision was based on an application process that started with five regions across the nation, but the list was narrowed to only Sion, and the final General Assembly approval after a presentation Tuesday was an expected rubber-stamping.
The presentation, lasting about 30 minutes, featured several top athletes including Olympic Champions.
The vote was unanimous (78-0) in favor of bidding for the Games, and also unanimous in approving Swiss Olympic’s eight million Swiss Francs share of the bid budget, estimated to be one-third of the cost of a campaign.
Switzerland has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice in St. Moritz in 1928 and 1948. Swiss city Lausanne, home of the IOC, will host the Youth Winter Games in 2020.
Swiss Olympic said last month that according to reports from the year long-evaluation, the Games would be good for the country, “these studies determined that the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games could have a significant economic impact for the country as a whole, estimated to be between 2.1 to 2.5 billion Swiss francs,” the sport body said.
Jürg Stahl, President of Swiss Olympic, said after the vote “this clear message from Swiss sport is very important to us. It shows that the foundations of the Sion 2026 project are solid.
“It is also important to us as we are entering the next stage of the project, which is to gather federal support. We are extremely grateful to be able to count on the support of these athletes – it is also with them that we will be able to explain to our population why we believe that the Games in Switzerland is a great idea.”
The global leg of the bid process is expected to be launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) early next year when applications are accepted, but ahead of a referendum in Valais, home of lead city Sion, that could occur in October 2018.
A March Internet survey revealed that almost two-thirds across the region were behind the project, but Olympic bid referendums in Europe have a poor recent track record.
Sion’s Swiss rival’s project in Graubünden was defeat by a referendum in February ending a Davos bid, Hamburg lost a referendum for the 2024 Games in 2015. For the 2022 Games there were four lost referendums – Krakow, Munich, Oslo and again Graubünden being represented by Davos and St. Moritz. Bern, also in Switzerland, withdrew late in the 2010 Winter Games campaign when it was defeated by a public vote.
The last Olympic bid referendum won during a campaign was earned by Vancouver’s winning bid for the 2010 Winter Games when nearly two-thirds supported the project.
In 1997, a referendum in Valais was won with 67 per cent support to finance the Sion 2006 Winter Games bid that subsequently lost to Italian city Torino. Sion also lost a bid for the 1976 Olympic Games that were won by Denver and later handed to Innsbruck when the U.S. city backed out.
Sion is the first to officially declare a candidacy, but other international cities are readying to possibly enter the race. They include Calgary in Canada as well as other former Winter Games hosts Innsbruck, Lillehammer and Sapporo, a city in Sweden, Erzurum in Turkey and 2022 Winter Games runner-up Almaty in Kazakhstan.
The IOC is expected to elect the host city in 2019.
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