On Wednesday, the Swiss candidature of Sion 2026 has received the official support of the Federal Council, a support expected and hoped for several months.
In December 2016, the Federal Council – the Swiss government – had set up an Interdepartmental Working Group to support cantonal candidates in the preparation of their respective projects.
A formal decision by the Federal Council was then to take place before the end of 2017.
This is now done, with the announcement of a financial contribution of 995 million Swiss francs (860.29 million euros).
Concretely, the Confederation undertakes to provide 8 million francs (6.92 million euros) to the budget for the candidature – a budget which should amount to 25 million francs (21.61 million euros) with the participation of the various stakeholders – and no less than 827 million francs (715.04 million euros) for the organization budget.
In addition to this double participation, the Confederation will also contribute to the development or renovation of Games-specific infrastructure, with a contribution of 31 million francs (26.80 million euros) out of a total investment estimated today at 100 million (86.46 million euros).
Finally, the confederal authorities will provide assistance and means in the field of security, with a total contribution of 129 million francs (111.53 million euros).
For the Federal Council, this financial support is explained by the quality of the project submitted by Sion 2026 Bid Committee.
It should be said that the partners of the Olympic and Paralympic project have moved forward with pragmatism since the announcement of the preparation of a candidature of Sion in December 2014.
Since then, and after the successive withdrawals of these rivals – the most serious of which was the canton of Graubünden – Sion’s candidature has refined its concept to make it a sustainable project that will convince beyond the IOC the political establishment and especially the local population.
Thus, out of 19 competition venues selected to date, 16 are or will be developed by 2020, well ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic deadline of 2026. These venues are and will be located in four cantons in order to meet the sustainability requirement and also to optimize the sharing out of the necessary investments for the Games.
The current concept provides for an organization budget of 1.98 billion francs (1.71 billion euros) for which each of the stakeholders will contribute. This budget will include a budget of 91 million francs (78.68 million euros) dedicated to the implementation of projects related to the Olympic legacy.
With the institutional support given today, the Swiss Olympic and Paralympic candidature integrates the dialogue phase established by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the cities interested in the 2026 Winter Games.
This introduction is even more remarkable after the electoral setback inflicted by the citizens of Tyrol (Austria) for the Innsbruck Bid, a project that could be particularly competitive for Sion.
However, prudence is still present on the Swiss side.
Indeed, as stipulated by the legislation, referendums will have to take place in the cantons concerned by the Olympic and Paralympic project. These votations are expected to be held in the spring of 2018.
In the case of popular acceptance, the Swiss candidate would be in a position to integrate the second phase set up by the IOC, namely the candidate phase, which will run over eleven months between October 2018 and September 2019, the Olympic institution will designate the Host City of the 2026 Winter Games.
In the case of a rejection by the population of the cantons, Sion 2026 would add to the list of electoral setbacks for applications to the Games.
In recent years, Swiss Olympic has witnessed the withdrawal of Bern (2010), St. Moritz (2022) and Graubünden (2026) because of a popular disavowal. The institution has also witnessed the defeats of Sion for the 2002 (second tie with Östersund behind Salt Lake City) and 2006 Olympic Games (finalist against Turin).
Prudence therefore, but real desire of the sports authorities of the country to “Raviver la flamme” (Rekindle the flame) in the image of the slogan unveiled today by the Sion 2026 Bid Committee.