Swiss cautious on Olympic bid after successful Youth Games

January 23, 2020

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — After a 72-year gap, Switzerland hosted Olympic events at the Lausanne Winter Youth Games that closed this week as a popular success.

So, when are the Olympics Games next coming to the IOC's home country?

Organizers in Lausanne long hoped that creating a fun, two-week festival on a strict $40 million budget would rekindle an Olympic flame in the hearts of typically cautious Swiss people. Enough voters were skeptical about the costs and benefits of Olympic hosting to sink three recent Winter Games proposals at the ballot box.

More seemed happy with the Lausanne 2020 results, according to the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

“For me, I must admit, it’s a big surprise,” Bach said at a news conference on Tuesday, praising the positive Swiss reaction he saw.

“The door is open” for another bid, Bach said, with the next option likely for 2034.

That would be 86 years since the Alpine nation's previous Winter Games, the second for St. Moritz, in 1948.

The 2022 Olympics would surely be taking place in the upscale town and its neighbor Davos but for a lost regional referendum seven years ago. That defeat let in Beijing to win.

It was the first of three defeats in a bruising five-year spell for the IOC’s image at home.

Two potential 2026 Olympics campaigns ended at the ballot box. First, in St. Moritz’s canton (state), then the home region of Sion which had been rejected by the IOC’s own voting members for the 2006 Winter Games.

Voters said no to Sion despite almost 1 billion Swiss francs ($1 billion) pledged by the Swiss federal government. The clear message was likely influenced by the $51 billion of Russian spending on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The IOC insisted Swiss voters had not understood a new process for bidding and hosting. It would control costs, curb building projects and listen more to local officials rather than impose demands.

Perhaps the people understand better now, Lausanne 2020 chief executive Ian Logan told The Associated Press.

“They say, ‘This could be the way, if we do it like this,’” Logan said of his project that relied on public transport and effective existing venues, both across the border in France and a five-hour train ride away at St. Moritz. “They all see it’s nice, it’s friendly.”

“First, you should motivate the region so that they see the impact for them — engaging people, having fun — and not talking about money first,” he suggested.

The next move is for Switzerland’s Olympic committee in what could be a national bid to better share the demands and rewards.

Three cities are now in talks for the 2030 Winter Games, and Sapporo in Japan seems favored ahead of Barcelona, Spain, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Swiss Olympic acknowledged in a statement that Lausanne 2020 was “an amazing experience for all of us,” and added that it is also financially committed to the world student winter games next January in Lucerne.

“It will be only after analysing those two events closely that we will cautiously start looking into an eventual new bid.”