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French Alps 2030 Winter Olympics bid could cost 2 billion euros; work needed to develop ice cluster in Nice

"We could feel, see and hear the very strong support from your communities, from your cities and from your government"- IOC Future Host Commission said after five-day visit

(Left to right) IOC Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss, CNOSF President David Lappartient and CPSF President Marie-Amélie Le Fur at press conference following French Alps 2030 Winter Olympic bid technical visit April 26, 2024 (CNOSF video screen capture)
(Left to right) IOC Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss, CNOSF President David Lappartient and CPSF President Marie-Amélie Le Fur at press conference following French Alps 2030 Winter Olympic bid technical visit April 26, 2024 (CNOSF video screen capture)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday completed a five-day inspection of sites proposed to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games along the French Alps, ending their tour on the Riviera in Nice.

For the proposed Games that organizers say will be adapted to the mountains, the IOC team including the Future Host Commission, Executives, athletes, experts and other stakeholders traveled more than 500 km across the French Alps, beginning their journey a La Clusaz Monday and arriving at the proposed Nice ice cluster Thursday.

The vast footprint of the Games is acceptable according to the IOC’s ‘New Norm’ that urges hosts to stage events at facilities that already exist or can be placed temporarily. With many good quality and well-maintained venues that remain as a legacy of the Albertville 1992 Winter Games and several World Cups and World Championships, organizers say they can host the Winter Games without a massive infrastructure budget.

“We showed that we wanted to limit the expenditure, and we have stayed in line with this objective, I am very proud of this,” French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) president David Lappartient told reporters at a closing press conference on Friday.

The bid committee has set an operating budget of 1.975 billion euros (USD $2.1 billion) for the Games – exclusive of any capital improvements that they say are already planned or are needed by the communities. Organizers emphasized the amount is less than half of the 4.4 billion euros (USD $4.7 billion) budget of the Paris 2024 Summer Games.

“Legacy is what we received and what we are going to pass on. There will be no white elephants,” President of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region Laurent Wauquiez assured.

Costly and use specific venues such as the sliding track for bobsled, luge and skeleton and the ski jump for Nordic events are already in place and ready to use with some minor renovations. Eleven meters will be added to the height of the ski jump, Lappartient said, at only a fraction of the cost of a new facility – and a chair lift will be added or replaced at an Alpine facility.

Infrastructure costs – claimed to be unconnected to the Games by the bid committee – remain unclear but Wauquiez said they could be in the one to two billion euro range.

In Nice, a new arena is set to be built and an already planned convention center will be constructed and will host the main media center. Temporary ice facilities will also be erected, leveraging existing Allianz Riviera Stadium.

The plan for long track speed skating remains unconfirmed but Lappartient said there will be a low cost solution in six weeks time and ready to present before the final election. The budget already includes the cost of a temporary skating oval in the ice cluster in or near Nice, but other options include hosting the event across the border, elsewhere in Europe.

Lappartient said two meetings are already scheduled next week with potential venue operators to evaluate the options.

Transport infrastructure upgrades are already planned, and the improvements will be required to move athletes, spectators and others across the clusters.

IOC’s Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss said “In the Northern Alps, I am really impressed [with venues], it is state of the art. ”

“In Nice, we have to do a lot with all the ice competitions. But I’m sure it is also for the population of Nice and this area,” the Austrian added.

“We are in really good talks and I think we will go further with this concept to bring all the ice competitions to one cluster.

“We need some investments [in Nice] to do something, but we don’t need too much because we have lovely buildings, yes, some of them have to be refurbished, but that’s normal.”

The opening ceremony location has not been planned but is expected to take place in the North with the mountains as a backdrop.

“Mountains to play a role in the opening ceremony,” Wauquiez said.

“We want an event that takes place with several witnesses.

“We want to include the Northern and Southern Alps.”

The closing ceremony is set to take place in Nice and Mayor Christian Estrosi said Thursday that the Promenade des Anglais could be an open air venue for the event.

He said “I don’t see why we would settle for a stadium, even if it is very beautiful, to host the closing ceremony when we can offer the most beautiful bay in the world and a promenade that can accommodate 300,000 people.”

On Friday he added “We have great ambitions, we want to make it even more spectacular than the closing ceremony in Paris in 2024.”

According to the bid committee 62 percent across France support the Winter Games bid while in host regions Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 81 percent are in favor and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has 73 percent backing the project.

That didn’t stop opposition groups, including the NO JO organization, from holding a press conference and demonstrating while the IOC team visited facilities at Briançon Wednesday. No official meeting was requested for the two parties to discuss the issues, according to the IOC.

NO JO claims there won’t be enough snow to support the Games in 2030, referring to climate change studies, and prefer the money be spent on other important social projects. Organizers have balked at that claim, saying the specific venues have been chosen because they have been deemed climate capable by experts.

Stoss said, referencing a sudden snowfall that occurred during the tour “your climate is reliable – this is a very important message – this is why the IOC would like to come back.”

“You showed us a very strong legacy of previous Games.

“We have a high confidence of your ability to host the Games because your venues are well maintained, you use them daily,” and to “produce champions.”

“We could feel, see and hear the very strong support from your communities, from your cities and from your government.”

Stoss said efforts to finalize the bid will begin immediately. Work will begin on the host city evaluation report Monday and the FHC will meet again to discuss the results. International sport federations will then be engaged to review the findings before the report is presented to the Executive Board at a meeting on June 12.

“If there is a green light,” Stoss said, “it’s the next step for us to provide a briefing to all IOC members end of June.”

The final election is scheduled for the IOC Session on July 24 in Paris where Salt Lake City, Utah is also expected to be chosen to host the 2034 edition of the Winter Games.

Lappartient said the bid has its own work to do, emphasizing that his stakeholders need to help push the project across the finish line – emphasizing the required guarantees are a priority.

“We need those guarantees,” he said of the collection of contracts that need to be signed by governments, venue operators, accommodation owners and others.

“We are confident but we need to be humble,” he added.

Stoss also hinted that both sides are already looking beyond the likely awarding of the Games in July, suggesting that discussions about new sports have already begun.

“Immediately after the election we will come together to finalize the Olympic Program and it will be time in 2025 or 2026 to talk about new sports,” Stoss said.

“We have some ideas, we discussed it already,” he said about the organizing committee’s option to propose additional, locally relevant sports to the Winter Olympic program.

France has already hosted three Winter Olympics: the first edition in Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992. The next Winter Games will take place in 2026 by Italy’s Milan-Cortina.

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.

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