The Swiss Canton of Valais announced Tuesday that it has struck an agreement in principle among the Swiss Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the city of Sion to have a potential Sion 2026 Olympic Host City Contract jointly signed by the Canton and the City.
Typically the agreement is signed only by the Mayor as a representative of the host city, but the new signing arrangement better reflects the regional nature of the Games that would be spread across Cantons Valais, Vaud, Bern and Fribourg, and would help reduce the burden directly on Sion.
A Valais statement explains, however, that the organizers must present a “credible budget” so that the risks of a deficit are minimal. The organization of the Games, if won, would be run by an association or public limited company with representatives form the City, Canton and Swiss Olympic.
The significant announcement comes just a month before voters across Valais head to the polls for a referendum that will determine whether the bid will move forward. A poll released last week said respondents were evenly split on their support for the Games, but that’s an improvement from earlier this year when 59 percent were against hosting the event.
Sion 2026 has undertaken an aggressive public engagement “road show” to answer questions of voters ahead of the June 10 vote.
A further national referendum could be required next year if Swiss Parliament ratifies a motion for a vote that was approved earlier this year.
The Sion 2026 budget includes a federal reserve of CHF 215 million (USD $215 million) and the organizing committee intends to purchase CHF 300 million of insurance coverage. Valais would contribute CHF 100 million.
The Host City Contract is expected to be released by the IOC next month and will be discussed with the candidates during the application phase.
A joint-signing of a Host City Contract for the Winter Games is not new. The document that secured the recently held PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games was signed by both the city and Gangwon Province due to the limited capacity of the small mountain resort town.
The Valais statement also maintains that an unlimited financial underwriting of the Games will not necessarily be required by the IOC – as was reported by GamesBids.com last year.
The Valais statement said “For the IOC, the host city contract provides for a joint commitment by all parties involved, but the financial guarantees to cover the risk of possible budget deficit of the organizing committee may take different forms.”
“They may even be limited to a specific amount, provided that they fulfill their function in a credible way to ensure that the organizers can meet their financial commitments.”
The IOC will accept qualified candidates to bid for the Games at a meeting in October and the winning city will be elected in September 2019.
Other cities in the race are Calgary in Canada where a plebiscite is being scheduled; Graz in Austria where an opposing political party is petitioning to force a referendum; Sapporo in Japan where a survey will help measure public support; Erzurum in Turkey, Stockholm in Sweden and a possible joint bid between Cortina d’Ampezzo, Turin and Milan in Italy.
Switzerland last hosted the Winter Games in St. Mortiz in 1948, but several losing or abandoned Swiss bids to host the Games have followed.