Swiss Winter Olympic bid derailed after voters reject funding

By John Revill

ZURICH, June 10 : Swiss voters killed off their country’s chances of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics on Sunday after refusing to approve financial support for the bid in a poll.

Some 54 percent of voters in the southern canton of Valais rejected granting 100 million Swiss francs ($101.5 million)towards the event, according to provisional results from the Valais government.

The decision spells the end of the Swiss bid to host the Games, which were to be centred on the city of Sion, after the campaign team threw in the towel.

“This is the end of the project to bring the Winter Olympics to Sion in 2026,” said campaign spokesman Alexander Waefler.

“We couldn’t convince a majority of voters that this was a reasonable and sustainable project. In the end it’s all about the money and people were concerned it would become too expensive.” The Swiss campaign will be formally wound up in the coming days after a review, he said.

Residents of a number of towns and cities have in recent years baulked at the cost and disruption associated with hosting Olympic Games.

Switzerland’s exit leaves Canada’s Calgary, Austria’s Graz, Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and an Italian bid involving Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin, as the remaining candidate venues.

The International Olympic Committee will invite candidates to bid formally at a session in October, and a host city will be selected in September 2019 Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, voters in Valais were asked to approve of the funding, which would be used for security and building permanent sporting infrastructure.

The Valais government had supported the bid, saying hosting the games would boost the region’s profile and could contribute around 2 billion Swiss francs into the local and national economy.

The final budget for the Games would more be around 2.4 billion francs, with the Swiss government would contribute almost 1 billion francs to that figure, pending parliamentary approval.

But opponents had raised fears the Games would go over budget and that Valais would be better spending the money on roads, hospitals and social services.

The IOC, which is based in Switzerland, has overhauled the bidding process for Games after a sharp slump in interest from potential hosts in recent years, cutting costs for bid cities and slashing the campaign time in half.

/Reuters

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