With intent to topple a 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid in Graz, the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) Sunday congratulated voters across Valais in Switzerland for voting against funding to host the same event in Sion in 2026, ending the rival campaign.
Graz KPÖ councilor Elke Kahr said “This result encourages us in our plan to enforce a referendum in Graz.”
“Our western neighbor [Switzerland] is repeatedly referred to as a role model. Why does [Graz] Mayor [Siegfried[ Nagl refuse, however, to start a binding referendum on 2026 on his own initiative?”
On Sunday almost 54 percent in the Swiss Canton voted to deny the proposed CHF 100 million (USD $101 million) needed for the bid to move forward. Instead, Sion 2026 organizers have been forced to withdraw from the race.
The Austrian KPÖ party has been circulating a petition since January to force a referendum over Graz’s candidacy, and according to its own reports has already collected 9,500 of the 10,000 signatures required to schedule a binding vote. The party expects to reach its goal “in the coming weeks.”
Graz emerged as a contender early this year after the previous Austrian nomination to bid, Innsbruck, was defeated by its own referendum when more than 53 percent refused to back plans.
The city has yet to fully confirm plans to follow through with a bid, instead waiting for the results of a feasibility study expected to be released later this month and perhaps in conjunction with a planned visit from International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch on June 21.
Kahr said “The Swiss cantons are richer than the city of Graz, their debt is much lower than ours. Nevertheless, the citizens of Valais did not want to take the high financial risk associated with the Olympics.”
“In the view of the KPÖ, the organizers of the Olympic bid in Styria should not rejoice over the fact that now a competitor for Graz has dropped away, but ask themselves the question whether it makes sense, to ignore the opinion of the population.”
The IOC blamed the Swiss rejection of the bid on “outdated information” and in a statement said “the recent fundamental reforms undertaken by the IOC have unfortunately not been taken into consideration.”
Sion’s demise follows a recent trend of referendums that have ended already organized bids. In addition to Innsbruck last year, in 2015 a bid by Hamburg for the 2024 Summer Games ended with a lost public vote. Vocal rejection of the projects and the threat of binding votes ended bids by Boston and Budapest for those same Games.
For the 2022 Winter Olympics another Swiss candidate, St. Moritz, was rejected by a referendum along with potential candidates Munich and later Krakow in Poland.
Another referendum is being organized for the Calgary 2026 bid, likely to be held in November.
For 2026 that leaves Stockholm and an Italian bid from among Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin that are still trying to secure elusive government support. Sapporo in Japan is considering postponing it’s bid until 2030 when it will be better prepared and a final candidate from Erzurum in Turkey is an outlier in the race.
The IOC will shortlist interested cities as candidates early in October and elect a winning city in September 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.