Sion has been nominated as Switzerland’s candidate to bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Executive Council of Swiss Olympic announced Tuesday after a meeting to review the project.
The decision, that must first be ratified by the General Assembly on April 11, means the bid will be financially supported to pursue the Games on the international stage when bids are accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) early next year.
Sion, if ratified, will become the first city to officially enter the 2026 Olympic bid race.
Swiss Olympic first started exploring potential bids nearly one year ago with five separate projects – but one bid dropped out and others combined leaving only two projects on the table until last month. A referendum in February over the Davos and St. Moritz proposal was lost by a wide margin forcing it out of the race leaving only Sion.
Swiss Olympic conducted studies to evaluate whether to move forward with a bid, and to help determine which project to choose.
“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 in a press release.
“Various surveys have also highlighted a very pronounced interest for the Games in the tourism, economic and sports sectors. Surveys in the areas of environment and sustainability, as well as civil society, have also shown very interesting opportunities.
“Additionally, the results of a survey of international Olympic experts have confirmed good chances of a winning Swiss bid if it is strong and innovative.”
“These reports both concluded that, at this stage [Sion 2026] fulfilled all the criteria imposed and therefore had the potential to be the new, innovative project with a truly national impact, as sought by Swiss Olympic.”
Swiss Olympic confirmed its intention to contribute 8 million Swiss francs (USD $7.9 million), which represents one third of the established bid budget.
Jürg Stahl, President of Swiss Olympic, said: “The results of the studies are clear: by setting up a new, modern and therefore truly pioneering Olympic project, the Games can have a strong beneficial impact in several important areas for our country.”
“Swiss Olympic has its role to play in developing this great national project, by organising a refreshing Games with balanced finances and a sustainable approach. This process will provide us with the opportunity to have a real debate on the future of tourism in our country and our relationship with the environment.”
Didier Cuche, former world class Swiss skier, Olympic medal winner and member of the 2026 Taskforce, added “Of course, the Olympic Games are one of the best catalysts for sport development in our societies. But the opinion of the Taskforce is unanimous in believing that we have to go beyond that.”
“We must create a great project that gives the next generation the opportunity to truly contribute to the development of tomorrow’s Switzerland.”
A referendum in Valais, home of lead city Sion, will likely be taken in October 2018 after the application of the bid to the IOC earlier next year.
Winning such a referendum would be unusual in Europe where there has been an uninterrupted string of failed votes. In addition to the Graubünden defeat that ended the Davos bid last month, 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.
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.
Sion could face international competition from Calgary, Innsbruck, Sapporo, Stockholm and 2022 runner-up Almaty in Kazakhstan.
The IOC is expected to elect a winner in 2019.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.