Swiss Government Delays Decision To Support Sion 2026 Olympic Winter Games Bid

The Swiss Federal Council Wednesday postponed plans to decide whether to grant financial support for the Sion 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.

Sion 2026 banners outside Swiss Sport General Assembly Room April 11, 2017 (Swiss Olympic Photo)

Sion 2026 banners outside Swiss Sport General Assembly Room April 11, 2017 (Swiss Olympic Photo)

Organizers had hoped that the government would have given the initial green light to commit eight million Swiss Francs for a candidature to bring the Games back to Switzerland for the first time since 1948, but say they aren’t surprised by the delay of the Federal Council’s decision.

“This is an important dossier and we knew that a decision could take time. We are therefore awaiting news shortly.” Sion 2026 Chair Jean-Philippe Rochat said in a Twitter statement.

“We expect a decision in the next few weeks.”

Last month Rochat told GamesBids.com that this decision would be an important milestone for the bid, adding “we won’t go ahead” if the plans don’t receive Federal endorsements.

“I don’t think that will be the case, I’m optimistic,” he added.

According to Swiss newspaper Le Temps, there was an intense government debate over the merits of a Sion 2026 candidacy proposed by Sports Minister Guy Parmelin, and the financial guarantees required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  Two ministers were in opposition of the proposal and requests were made for further information regarding the plans that wasn’t readily available.

Parmelin will provide further details in response to the opposition at a future meeting.  Opponents were most concerned about the possibility of writing a “blank cheque” to cover any cost overruns that the Games may generate.

André Simonazzi, a spokesperson for the Federal Council warned against drawing any conclusions from the delay, and the presence of opposition.

“This is a complex matter with significant sums involved,” he said.

“The Federal Council always takes time to decide on this type of file.”

Sion 2026 Chair Jean-Philippe Rochat (right) and Valais Sports Councilor Frédéric Favre (Sion 2026 Photo)

Sion 2026 Chair Jean-Philippe Rochat (right) and Valais Sports Councilor Frédéric Favre (Sion 2026 Photo)

“We are talking about the fourth biggest event in the world and perhaps the biggest event that Switzerland can organize,” Frédéric Favre, the State Councilor in charge of sports in Valais said.

“I find it normal that the Federal Council should take its time to make such an important decision.”

If Sion 2026 gets the go-ahead, the decision would still need to be rubber-stamped by the Federal Council in the Spring.

Should Sion 2026 receive that approval, it will have until March 31, 2018 to file an application with the IOC.  The Swiss public will then have their say in a binding referendum that would be held next fall.  The host city election is scheduled to occur September 2019 in Milan, Italy.

There will also be key milestones next week for two potential rival bids to the Swiss candidacy.  A referendum in Innsbruck Sunday (October 15) could seal the fate of the Austrian bid for the Games while a municipal election in Calgary will help shape the city council that will decide whether the Canadian bid files an application to host the Games in Alberta.

Possible bids from Stockholm in Sweden, Almaty in Kazakhstan, Sapporo in Japan and Ezurum in Turkey have also been discussed.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil