Winter Olympics bidders hopeful but secretive following critical closed-door presentations to IOC

The IOC's Executive Board is expected to announce its decisions next Wednesday (November 29) in Paris

Sparse comments emerged Tuesday after last-minute high-level pitches to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from representatives of regions vying to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2030 and 2034. The critical but short Zoom meetings were considered the final opportunity to convince the IOC’s Future Host Commission (FHC) that their bids should be included in the next ‘targeted dialogue’ phase of the bid process.

Olympic Rings hang cliffside overlooking PyeongChang 2018 Ski Jump venue (GamesBids Photo)
Olympic Rings hang cliffside overlooking PyeongChang 2018 Ski Jump venue (GamesBids Photo)

The IOC’s Executive Board is expected to announce its decision next Wednesday (November 29) in Paris.

The IOC’s continuous dialogue stage of the bid process provides bids with anonymity if they desire, and all discussions, meetings and documents are kept strictly confidential. The IOC introduced this process to allow potential bidders to explore hosting opportunities without the costs, risks and pressure of engaging in an actual campaign.

It’s possible additional regions met with the FHC Tuesday.

In the past, meetings such as those held Tuesday might have been staged in a convention center in front of a large group of stakeholders and sports industry professionals – and likely livestreamed to the world. Instead, the meeting dates were never officially published and known bidders offered little in the way of press releases or follow up campaign hype despite next week’s critical decision.

Only the French Alps 2030 bid backed by regions from Nice to Haute-Savoie held an impromptu press conference following its thirty-minute virtual presentation to the IOC, being careful not to divulge too much information about the meeting itself.

Few details were offered but French Olympic Committee president David Lappartient told reporters, according to AFP, “It went well, we presented it together, united, that’s the message we wanted to give.”

Auvergne-Rhone-Alps region president Laurent Wauquiez said “there was stress, we really felt like we were taking an exam but we had really prepared. We played a good match.”

The presentation was also attended by Marie-Amélie Le Fur from the French Paralympic Committee, regional president Renaud Muselier for Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, French Minister for Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, former biathlete and now IOC member Martin Fourcade, Paralympic champion skier Marie Bochet and rowing Olympic champion and IOC member Jean-Christophe Rolland.

President of the Swiss Ski Federation and Olympic Champion Urs Lehmann held a post presentation interview with Swiss press agency Keystone-SDA and made conservative comments as Switzerland’s bid waits for Sports Parliament approval in a vote scheduled Friday.

“We introduced ourselves to the IOC’s Future Host Commission. Now it is up to the sports parliament and the IOC to decide whether we can enter the next phase, namely that of targeted dialogue. This is the biggest milestone that lies ahead,” Lehmann said, cautioning that by next week only two other bids may remain for 2030 if Friday’s vote is unsuccessful.

Speaking on the chances of the Swiss project he added “33 percent. I choose the mathematical and typically Swiss modest approach. It is undisputed that we have a strong, reliable and sustainable dossier. Also that Switzerland can fully meet the expectations of the next generation of games, i.e. back to nature. But this is also about a political process with an unpredictable outcome.”

A spokesperson for Sweden’s bid set to be centered in Stockholm said the short morning presentation “focused on presenting our concept for the Games and our vision of the most sustainable Games ever.”

There was an update regarding the Swedish unified support from the regional and national politics, both the Swedish business and sport community, as well as the public. It was previously reported that Stockholm mayor Karin Wanngård took the opportunity to announce that she would sign the important Municipality Agreement supporting the Games.

Swedish Olympic Committee president Hans von Uthmann told Swedish Radio “we got some very positive comments and good questions based on our presentation. Our concept is strong and thoroughly done, we are positive.”

Salt Lake City is the only bid being considered to host the 2034 edition according to a report released by the FHC last month.

According to Deseret News Salt Lake City officials were upbeat following the 40-minute presentation that could virtually lock up a second Games for the city in 2034 should the IOC choose to move the Utah capital into targeted dialogue next week. That would culminate the 10 year journey for the team.

Utah governor Spencer Cox said there were no hard questions from the Commission but “so many compliments.”

He told KSL Radio “I made a promise to them [the IOC] that in 2034, no matter how crazy and chaotic the world is, that Utah will be a place where people can seek refuge where people can come together, where you can unify.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who attended the presentation on the election day where she was campaigning for a second term in office, said there was “a good deal of resonance, that the message that we brought was well-received.”

Mendenhall held a strong lead after polls closed Tuesday and has been declared the winner of her Mayoral race.

Also in the meeting were bid president Fraser Bullock, chair Catherine Raney Norman, Olympic downhill ski champion Lindsey Vonn, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chair Gene Sykes, and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland.

The IOC’s FHC is expected to debrief during meetings Wednesday and finalize reports and recommendations for the Executive Board to be presented at a scheduled meeting next Wednesday. Any number of bids could be recommended as preferred candidates for each edition, but those not considered will have to wait until 2038 for their next chance to host.

Those moving forward will be further vetted and will engage in negotiations preparing for a final election next Summer.

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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