Opposition to French Alps 2030 Winter Olympics bid squander chance for dialogue with IOC as politicians deny concerns

IOC: "We're very happy to meet when there is contact made by the National Olympic Committee, which we offer, but so far no follow up."

Protesters representing NO JO demonstrate in Briançon during the IOC inspection of French Alps 2030 Winter Olympics bid. Banners read "Olympic Games=Death to Mountains" and "Your Olympic Games - Our Debt" (Photo: NO JO Facebook)
Protesters representing NO JO demonstrate in Briançon during the IOC inspection of French Alps 2030 Winter Olympics bid. Banners read “Olympic Games=Death to Mountains” and “Your Olympic Games – Our Debt” (Photo: NO JO Facebook)

Organized opposition to the French Alps 2030 Winter Olympics bid set a collision course with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Wednesday who were in France to conduct due diligence on the preferred candidate to host the Games.

The NO JO (No Olympic Games) group scheduled their own press conference in Briançon, along with a demonstration timed to coincide with the IOC’s Future Host Commission arrival to tour venues proposed for the Games. But the IOC later said the opponents of the project never formally reached out to arrange an official meeting to discuss concerns.

The group claims the climate crisis will soon make the proposed venues obsolete due to lack of snow and further costly development would waste funds that should instead be diverted to other causes such as public health, education and the environment.

NO JO spokesperson Stéphane Passeron told reporters “This application is the future vision that [the regional governors] have for the Alps, but it is not our vision.”

“There will be no snow anyway. They are deluding themselves. It’s nonsense. climate denial, nothing more, nothing less.”

José Pluki, speaking on behalf of NO JO told “We base ourselves on the [Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change] reports which predict a catastrophe for the Alps.”

“We see it every winter. This winter 80 roads were cut by mudslides. In 2030, the Olympic Games will seem superfluous.”

The group claims there hasn’t been enough public consultation and are asking for a nation-wide referendum.

President of proposed host region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Renaud Muselier said according to Le Dauphine “These opponents who want nothing and offer nothing, are announcing staggering costs when we are probably going to offer the cheapest Winter Games in the world.”

Briançon mayor Arnaud Murgia added “I regret that these opponents are against everything and all the time.”

President of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region Laurent Wauquiez said all ski facilities have been chosen because according to studies they will have snow in 2030.

Last week the IOC’s Future Olympic Games Host director Jacqueline Barret described “strong support…that we have seen across the region,” referring to a survey last October that found over 70 percent in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are in favor of the bid.

The IOC Future Host Commission has commissioned its own survey to gauge public support as part of its due diligence, and plans to release that as part of the report to be presented to the IOC’s Executive Board in June.

“We are always open to meeting with anybody [to discuss concerns] if there is a request to do that but it needs to come through the French Alps [bid committee],” she told reporters during an online conference.

“If that comes up, there is an opportunity that we can do that, absolutely.”

When reached out to NO JO last week, a spokesperson suggested they would be requesting a meeting.

On Friday, IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi confirmed that the Future Host Commission did not meet with the opposition group.

He told by telephone “we’re very happy to meet when there is contact made by the National Olympic Committee which we offer, but so far no follow up.”

Dubi said such meetings are typical and one was held in 2019 with citizens in Cortina d’Ampezzo to discuss concerns over the proposed sliding track that is now currently under construction to host bobsled, luge and skeleton for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games.

“Because there is no other way to understand what the concepts are,” he said.

“We didn’t have the chance [in Briançon] but the door is always open.”

Dubi said the ski venues have now been finalized in the masterplan and all have well-maintained and good quality infrastructure that regularly stage World Championships and World Cup events.

There are “no red flags,” he said adding the French Alps plans “tick the box on every front.”

The IOC’s visit started Monday at La Clusaz followed by tours of the cross-country ski and biathlon venues at Le Grand-Bornand. The trip continued Tuesday with tours of La Plagne (bobsleigh, luge, skeleton) and Courchevel (alpine, and ski jumping).

On Wednesday delegates moved to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to explore Montgenèvre (freestyle skiing and snowboarding), Serre-Chevalier (freestyle skiing and snowboarding) and Briançon.

On Thursday the teams arrived in Nice on the French Riviera for meetings and to review additional venues including Allianz Riviera Stadium and proposed new sites for figure skating, curling, short-track and ice hockey. The city plans to build a new convention center that could serve as the Main Media Center. A new arena is also planned.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters that the Promenade des Anglais could be an open air venue to stage the closing ceremony.

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.”

Paris is set to stage the this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony along the Seine River, the first ever not be be held in a stadium. Plans are controversial due to security concerns in the open air environment, and there are reportedly backup plans to move the event to a more secure location if necessary.

The visit concludes Friday with further meetings in Nice and a closing press conference.

If the IOC Executive Board endorses the bid in June, the final election will be held at the IOC Session on July 24 in Paris, just ahead of the Summer Games.

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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