A new poll released Tuesday has revealed that 58 percent of those surveyed will likely vote against the Sion 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid when citizens head to the polls across Valais Canton for a June 10 referendum.
The poll conducted in Valais by Sotomo for RTS Swiss Public Television indicated that 51 percent would not approve the funding of CHF100 million (USD $100 million) to organize the event, and a further seven percent would probably not approve the allocation of money. Only 36 percent said they would vote “yes” to the proposed funding and 6 percent would probably vote “yes” amounting to a possible 42 percent support.
These numbers show a decline from a poll taken two weeks ago that indicated the decision was virtually split among those asked.
In less than three weeks the referendum could bring Switzerland’s Olympic dreams to an end if the vote is lost and Sion is forced to drop out of a campaign that organizers have been developing for almost two years. If the vote is passed, the project could face a further national vote to determine its fate.
Breaking down the results, the bid is more popular among men with 49 percent of those surveyed backing the project while only 32 percent of women said they would vote “yes”. Respondents in the Upper Valais region were 48 percent in favour while those in the French-speaking areas of the canton were 39 percent in favour.
Of those opposed to the bid, 60 percent said it was due to high costs. For the supporters, 33 percent said that the biggest appeal is that an Olympic Games would put Valais on the world stage.
The Sion 2026 bid team have mounted an aggressive public consultation and social media campaign ahead of the referendum, and are working to fight the perception that the Games will be too costly and risky. Plans support the use of mostly existing venues to help mitigate potential capital costs.
The Sion Games, that are proposed to be held across the Cantons of Valais, Vaud, Bern and Fribourg, would receive CHF1 billion (USD $1 billion) from the Swiss government should it be elected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in September 2019.
The IOC will contribute USD $925 million from sponsorship and broadcast revenue towards the operating costs of the Games. Qualified cities that have expressed interest in hosting the Games will be invited to bid during an IOC meeting this October.
Calgary in Canada is among those cities interested and will face a plebiscite vote near the end of this year. Opponents in Austria are petitioning for a referendum over a bid from Graz.
Other bids from Stockholm in Sweden and one from among Turin, Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy are seeking government approvals to move forward.
Sapporo in Japan is considering pulling out of the 2026 race to instead delay until 2030 when much-needed new rail infrastructure will be ready. Public opinion is leading officials in that direction but no final decision has been made.
Erzurum in Turkey has also entered the race but could face push back due to lack of infrastructure and security risks.
Last year, a potential 2026 bid from Innsbruck in Austria dropped from the race after narrowly losing a referendum.
Four European bids dropped out of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games race leaving Beijing in China to defeat Almaty in Kazakhstan on a single final ballot.
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.