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Geoff Berkeley: Battle for 2030 Winter Olympics intensifies as European trio push cases

There was a hint of a Swedish persuasion when International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates addressed the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) General Assembly five months ago.

During the meeting in April, the Australian ONOC executive member turned to Swedish official Gunilla Lindberg to voice his support for her country’s decision to consider bidding for the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

“We are very anxiously awaiting a country or countries to put their hands up to host the 2030 Winter Games and the lady next to me can leave the room if she wants to,” said Coates jokingly to Lindberg to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.

“[Sweden] is high on our target list.

“We really need to put that to bed.”

At that stage, Sweden – a country that has experienced eight previous failed bids including losing to Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo for 2026 – seemed to have pushed itself to the front of the queue after other 2030 contenders had fallen away.

The IOC was left in a predicament at the end of last year when Sapporo withdrew, Vancouver’s bid collapsed, and Salt Lake City expressed its preference for 2034.

A winner of the hosting rights had originally been scheduled to be announced at the IOC Session which is due to be held in Mumbai next month.

But those plans were ripped up last December with IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi opting to delay the decision to allow the organisation to “consult deeply with interested parties”.

Suddenly a window of opportunity appeared – and Sweden looked to seize its moment, with the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) announcing in February that it was considering throwing itself in the mix.

Since then, the SOK has revealed that a survey found that seven out of 10 Swedes were in favour of a bid and declared that it would be advancing to the next stage in the bidding process after entering into “ongoing dialogue” with the IOC.

Lindberg, the secretary general of the Association of National Olympic Committees, also suspended her membership of the IOC Future Host Committee for the Olympic Winter Games – the body responsible for proposing a preferred bidder to the IOC Executive Board – as optimism grew over Sweden’s chances.

Under Sweden’s proposals, Stockholm would stage the ice sports, with the snow disciplines held in Åre and Östersund and potentially Latvia hosting the sliding competition in Sigulda.

After so many near misses in previous bidding races, this could be Sweden’s time to shine.

However, Sweden now faces a battle on its hands with challenges emerging from France and Switzerland.

Unlike Sweden, the two countries have experience of delivering the Winter Olympics, with St Moritz in Switzerland playing host in 1928 and 1948 and France staging the event on three occasions including Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992.

Swiss Olympic announced its intention in April after revealing that it had progressed from “informal dialogue” to “continuous dialogue” with the IOC.

At that point, the organisation was coy over which edition it was looking to bid for and instead opted for a long-term approach which had drew praise from Dubi.

But with interest from Sweden and France increasing, Switzerland has now admitted that 2030 is one of its options as plans were outlined last month to stage the Games across the nation.

It aims to become the first “host country” in Olympic history while claiming that it will have “contemporary, modern infrastructure” for 13 out of 14 Winter Olympic sports by the end of the decade, with speed skating highlighted as the only issue.

There are also plans to accommodate athletes and officials in what it describes as “Olympic hubs” instead of constructing a “large” Olympic Village.

“Under these conditions, gigantism is out of the question,” said Swiss Olympic vice-president Ruth Wipfli Steinegger.

It’s a proposition which may excite the Swiss-based IOC that wants hosts to utilise existing venues and avoid creating white elephants.

But it remains to be seen whether there is enough public support when considering a bid from Sion in Switzerland for 2026 was scuppered following a failed referendum.

You would think with an Olympic Games being staged in your country in less than a year’s time that this would be your sole focus.

But France can’t resist getting involved in the tussle for 2030 after backing the Alpine regions of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to form a joint bid.

“It’s now or never” was how Auvergne Rhône-Alpes President Laurent Wauquiez summed up the situation which seems a little over the top given its infrastructure unless he is making reference to global warming as temperatures rise in Europe.

The two regions are no stranger to hosting top-level international winter sport events as they include the popular ski resorts of Chamonix, Courchevel, Grenoble, Albertville, La Plagne, Megève and Val d’Isere.

There had been talk of a possible joint bid featuring Valais in Switzerland and Chamonix in France, but the two countries are now locked in battle.

French National Olympic and Sports Committee President David Lappartient demonstrated the organisation’s intent to win the hosting rights when speaking at yesterday’s General Assembly.

It’s difficult to quantify how France will be able to finance another Games so soon after spending billions of euros on staging the Olympics and Paralympics next year but Lappartient, an IOC member, is in buoyant mood over his country’s chances.

Lappartient claims that IOC President Thomas Bach was “very impressed” following a recent meeting to discuss the French proposal and says he anticipates entering “targeted dialogue” with the IOC by December when the list of candidates are expected to be whittled down.

Speaking in June, Dubi revealed that there were six countries interested in hosting a Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with five of those in “continuous dialogue”.

Japan, Canada and the United States may well be the other contenders having not ruled themselves out of staging a future edition.

But there is a strong feeling now that the battle lies in Europe with the prospect of back-to-back Winter Olympics in the continent after Milan Cortina 2026.

And there is no doubt that the fight for the hosting rights will intensify as Sweden, Switzerland and France seek to win over the IOC.

Source: Inside The Games



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