Valais citizens reject 2026 Winter Olympic bid
Photo: Wikimedia Commons. View to Rhone valley (Sion ).
11.06.2018By Luca Arfini
On 10th June 2018, Swiss citizens of Valais said no to bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics, with a turn-out of 62 percent. This was the fifth time, the inhabitants of the Swiss canton of Valais voted down an Olympic bid. Similar referendums were held also in 1968, 1976, 2002 and 2006, all resulting in a ‘no’. Switzerland, IOC’s home country, has not hosted the Games since 1948.
54 percent of the voters voted against allocating 100 million Swiss francs ($102 million, 86 million euros) to host the Olympics in the city of Sion, located in the South of Switzerland.
Voters from both the largest ski resorts of the Canton, Zermatt and Nendaz, as well as in the city of Sion itself, rejected the bid. Meanwhile, in the two mountains resorts of Crans-Montana and Saas-Fee, residents voted in majority yes to the referendum.
Phillipe Varone, the Mayor of Sion, claimed that the result should be interpreted as “a clear and asserted will” of the Swiss citizens. He has also added that “This is the end of the project” and that “There is no plan B.”
According to swissinfo.ch, economic concerns were the main reason the citizens decided against the bid. In fact, they were worried that the expenses for the Games would overrun the original budget and the allocated money would be better used to improve public services of the area. Yesterday’s vote is a sign of a lack of confidence in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose Agenda 2020 contained a reform strategy to optimise the Games´ budgets, writes swissinfo.ch.
The Swiss Tourism Federation was of a different opinion when commenting on the vote.
“For more than two weeks, Switzerland would have been in the focus of global media events and could have shown its best side, which would have given new impetus to tourism.”
The event could have brought Switzerland 6,000 new jobs and a total turnover of around five billion francs, the tourism federation argued.
Voters had “outdated information on the cost”: IOC
As a response to the referendum´s result, the IOC claimed that the “recent fundamental reforms undertaken by the IOC have unfortunately not been taken into consideration” and that the defeat of the referendum was caused by “outdated information on the cost of the Games”.
"Unfortunately we did not accomplish to convince the voters in the canton of Valais of the sustainability and the chances the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2026 in Sion would have brought to the canton and to the whole country of Switzerland," commented Jürg Stahl, the Swiss Olympic President.
Right now, the remaining candidate cities for the 2026 Winter Olympics are Canada’s Calgary, Austria’s Graz, Sweden´s Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and in Italy, the bid involves three different options Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan or Turin.
The Sion referendum is the eighth time, citizens have voted down an Olympic Games since 2011. Most recently, in Innsbruck, Austria last October, when the public voted no to bidding for the 2026 Games.
While there are still six bidders in the race for the 2026 Games, the cities that the IOC will have to chose between are still far from clarified. A referendum will probably also be held in the city of Calgary in Canada and neither the Swedish nor the Italian bid has secured political support so far. And in the Japanese city of Sapporo, there are talks of bidding for the Games in 2030 instead.
However, a decision on who will host the 2026 Winter Games should be taken by IOC in September 2019.