Switzerland enters “ongoing dialogue” with IOC, first official step towards hosting future Winter Olympics

Switzerland last week took an important step forward positioning the nation to host future Olympic Winter Games, according to an announcement that the Swiss Olympic Executive Board has requested official dialogue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Valais residents went to the polls June 10, 2018 and rejected CHF 100 million funding for Sion 2026 Olympic Bid (Sion 2026 Photo)
Valais residents went to the polls June 10, 2018 and rejected CHF 100 million funding for Sion 2026 Olympic Bid (Sion 2026 Photo)

“Swiss Olympic decided to request the IOC to move from ‘informal dialogue’ to ‘ongoing dialogue’ in the ‘Election of Future Hosts’ process,” a statement read, also cautioning that “a new Swiss candidacy will only be taken into account after a thorough examination.”

Following the new bidding rules of engagement rolled out by the IOC in 2019, potential bidders express interest to the Future Host Commission then engage in an ongoing dialogue where both parties explore mutual opportunities without any commitment or need to publicize. There is no set timetable for the discussion and it could apply to any future edition of the Games not yet allocated.

Last week IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said the list of interested bidders to host in 2030, 2034 or beyond has grown more than the previously announced six regions. Last month Sweden entered the race to reprise the 2026 Stockholm bid that was defeated by Italy. Previously projects from Spain, Canada and Japan stepped back due to internal obstacles. A so-called European Super Bid failed to emerge earlier this year when French officials were not on board with the joint project to be shared with Italy and Switzerland – but with the recent statement it appears the latter could move forward alone.

France will host the Summer Games in Paris next year and Italy is set to stage the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games.

Switzerland, home to Olympic headquarters at the edge of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, has struggled to find local support for previous bids. Multiple public referendums have failed this century, derailing established bids for Sion in 2026 and Berne in 2010 and other projects that had yet to form including for 2022. Since last hosting the Winter Games in St. Moritz in 1948, Switzerland has also lost bids to host in 1960, 1976, 2002 and 2006.

The Winter Youth Olympics were hosted in Lausanne in 2020.

Swiss Olympic said the move will make it the sole contact point between potential Swiss bids and the IOC and can “bring together the various projects and forces involved.”

“As part of this dialogue, Swiss Olympic will check whether the conditions are met for a possible Swiss Olympic bid.

“Over the next few months, the aim will be to show what the Winter Games in Switzerland could look like, taking these new conditions into account.

“A bid concept will only have a chance if it is sustainable and the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games leaves a legacy beyond sport – for society, the economy and Switzerland as a place of innovation.”

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Swiss Olympic also emphasized that the discussions are not tied to a specific edition of the Games.

Swiss Olympic, along with other nations, have motivation to engage with the IOC now on future Games even if there is no interest in the next unallocated edition in 2030. Last week Dubi reiterated that the IOC is studying the impact of climate change on potential hosts and will set criteria to identify climate capable sites. Along with that, the Future Host Commission will consider selecting a permanent pool of viable Winter Games hosts and could start that off with a simultaneous awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Games.

Dubi said this roadmap, that could identify regions to host the Games for decades to come, has already brought new interest to the table that continues to grow. If national Olympic committees don’t raise their hands now, they could miss out on hosting the Winter Olympics for the foreseeable future.

Laying out a rough timeline, Dubi said new Winter Olympics process and climate plans could go to a member vote at an IOC Session in Mumbai, India in October leading to host city elections starting as early as 2024 – possibly at a Session ahead of the Paris Olympics.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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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