According to a Catalan government poll taken in December, over 73 per cent across the region support a bid to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games in Pyrenees and Barcelona.
The results of the survey obtained by the Catalan News Agency tabulate responses from 1,506 people across Catalonia including Alt Pirineu and Aran Veguería and further reveal that 68 per cent believe a Games could benefit all of Catalonia. Those who support the bid pointed most frequently to new infrastructure development, international promotion, boosted tourism and job creation as key benefits. About 20 per cent oppose the project.
These survey results have been revealed just as officials confirmed that a binding public referendum will be held in the spring to determine whether the Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will move forward. The referendum that was first proposed almost two years ago will be held in 77 municipalities populated with about 60,000 eligible voters across the Pyrenees where sliding events are planned to be held, but not in Barcelona where other events could be staged.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has called for her residents to be included in the vote but Minister of the Presidency Laura Vilagrà insists that the decision should be made where the impact is greatest – in the region where the majority of the events will be held. In a meeting this week with Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) President Alejandro Blanco, Vilagrà further emphasized that Pyrenees should take the lead in the bid and include venues from other regions such as Aragon, Barcelona, and possibly France – only if necessary.
It is further feared, according to reporting in El Correo, that including Barcelona residents in the referendum could jeopardize favorable results.
The COE has been focused on a shared candidacy between Catalonia and Aragon, but complicated regional politics have created a power-struggle behind the bid that threatens to damage the project.
Awareness of the bid is high according the the poll, at 66 per cent across Catalonia and up to 82 per cent in the Pyrenees. Overall support is marginally lower in the Pyrenees with concerns revolving around the economic costs and the potential for ‘white elephant’ legacies. Other fears include the negative environmental impact and lack of snow in the region due to climate change, and the potentially ‘artificial’ job creation and increase in tourism that will not be sustainable after the Games resulting in a post-Games economic hangover.
La consulta dels Jocs Olímpics d’Hivern Pirineus-Barcelona 2030 es farà a la vegueria de l’Alt Pirineu i l’Aran; i se celebrarà durant la primavera d’aquest any. Ens vam comprometre a donar la veu a la gent i a fer uns Jocs amb i pel territori, i així serà pic.twitter.com/Fl3lgS9n8j
— Laura Vilagrà Pons (@LauraVilagra) January 21, 2022
Bid opposition group ‘Stop JJOO’ has been pushing for the referendum and the cancelation of the bid due to these concerns, and they have been campaigning to highlight these fears.
Positive poll results may not be an accurate predicter of referendum results as has been the case in several lost votes over the past decade, including in Calgary where intense ‘no’ campaigning for the 2026 bid eroded support that had been demonstrated in earlier positive surveys. Over 56 percent eventually voted against those plans and the project was shelved.
Bids for 2026 from Innsbruck in Austria and Sion in Switzerland were also toppled by referendums. Voters in Munich, St. Moritz in Switzerland and Krakow in Poland rejected bids for the 2022 Winter Games.
If the Pyrenees-Barcelona bid does win public support, it will be vying for the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) attention among rivals Sapporo in Japan, Salt Lake City in the United States, Vancouver-Whistler in Canada and Ukraine. Sapporo is set to face its own public survey in March while Salt Lake City has already demonstrated very strong public support among residents and government partners.
Ukraine was forced to drop its 2022 bid during the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, and it seems the nation’s 2030 project could suffer the same fate as Russian troops now amass along their shared borders.
Last year Canada announced that it was exploring an indigenous-led bid representing Vancouver-Whistler and polling ahead of this potential project has shown that respondents are split.
The IOC has no set timeline for the election of the 2030 Winter Games host city and can name a winner whenever they find a suitable host.
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.