International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in an interview broadcast by CNN Money Switzerland Monday that distrust in the IOC is a message perpetuated in the media – and not a real concern of the general population.
When asked about the rejection of the Sion 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid when citizens across Valais, Switzerland voted against the project in a referendum this year, Bach said it was all about money.
“I’ve seen the polls and we have had contact with the candidature committee and there we were told that it was three topics which played a role: the first one was money, the second was money and the third was money,” Bach said.
“And there, even with respect to money the IOC has a lot to offer because we are contributing to the success of the  Olympic Winter Games with 925 million U.S. dollars.”
When asked about the perceived lack of trust in the IOC, an organization that has recently dealt with corruption and accused of letting the costs of the Games soar, Bach dismissed the notion.
“I think this discussion took place more in some media than in the population,” he said.
Indeed, a poll released Monday by the City of Calgary revealed that 73 percent of those opposed to the city’s potential bid to host the 2026 Games are concerned about costs while only 5 percent identified corruption and the IOC as the source of their apprehension.
Calgarians will head to the polls on November 13 to determine the fate of the Canadian bid; 53 percent of respondents in the survey say they will vote ‘yes’ to a Games.
But Bach fears that the message his organization has is not getting to the right people.
The IOC has answered criticism that the Games were costing too much and creating “white elephant” venues that were burdening host city economies. Bach forwarded his “Olympic Agenda 2020” package of 40 reforms designed to update the Olympic movement – including the streamlining of the bid process that makes hosting more efficient, sustainable and beneficial.
This year the “New Norm” policy was introduced that could cut 100’s of millions of dollars from the operating cost of the Games.
New policies are already generating results, Bach said, explaining that the IOC is about to announce that the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games generated an operational profit.
Bach said “the biggest challenges are to make people believe that the reforms are really bearing fruit and to get this message across.”
On the Sion vote in June that specifically asked constituents to approve 100 million Swiss Francs funding for the Games, Bach said “this is a referendum, this is a democratic procedure, we respect this. Even if we had wished that the arguments of the responsible people who were bringing this candidature forward would have been heard a little bit better because there the Olympic Agenda plays an important role.”
“What is a little bit of pity maybe is that the emotions around the Olympics, the magic of the Olympics Games, the support for the Swiss athletes, that all this did not play a real role.
“This is at the end what the Games are about. They’re about the athletes, they’re about this magic, they’re about the emotions, they’re about being good hosts, and all of this was reduced to a financial question – and not discussed in a way which really reflected all the options the Olympic Agenda offers.”
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.