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Sion 2026 fires back at Olympic bid report

Sion 2026 has hit back at a report stating that its bid for the winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will cost CHF2.4bn (€2.065bn/$2.406bn) versus the CHF1.98bn previously disclosed, stating that the new figures correspond with those presented to the Swiss government last week.

The Swiss government last week gave its backing to Sion’s proposed bid for the 2026 Games, stating it would provide up to CHF995m to support the project. A cabinet meeting approved public support for the bid, which would see the sports venues for the Games spread around Valais and the neighbouring cantons of Berne, Fribourg and Vaud.

The government backed the bid, but has set certain conditions such as the project primarily using existing infrastructure, focusing on sustainability and fully utilising public transport. In terms of state spending, the government foresees CHF827m being assigned to the Games budget with CHF8m going towards the candidature budget. However, Swiss public radio station RTS this week reported on the rise in the projected cost, with Sion 2026 angry at the nature of the information presented.

RTS said its figures had been confirmed by the financial controller of Sion 2026, stating the additional amount could be broken down into CHF25m for the candidacy, CHF100m for infrastructure and CHF300m for public security.

Bernard Rüeger, vice-president of Sion 2026, admitted there had been a lack of communication regarding the budget for the Games. “From now on we need to be more transparent,” he said. However, in a statement, Sion 2026 reacted more strongly.

It said: “The various information contained in this article of RTS was false and misleading. In the absence of being able to order media enthusiasm, the organising committee, the public authorities that commit themselves, as well as the inhabitants of our country, should be able to expect from the national chain a scrupulous objectivity, without compromise.”

The Sion 2026 plan still needs parliament support and could yet face referendums in cantons proposed for the sporting events. Switzerland hosted the winter Games in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz in the eastern canton of the Grisons. In February, voters in that canton rejected a bid leaving the path clear for Sion to pursue its project.

Switzerland considered bidding for the 2022 Olympics, but a proposed bid from St Moritz/Davos was rejected by a local referendum. Despite being the home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and numerous international federations, Switzerland has only hosted the Olympics on the two occasions in St Moritz.

Sion 2026 president Jean-Philippe Rochat has said he is “more disappointed than surprised” by the critical reporting of the bid. “The general atmosphere is quite unfavourable to the Games,” he said, according to Swiss newspaper 24 heures. “We knew that the financial question was going to occupy the ground at first.

“Now we have to give other signals and show that there are other issues. It will be (key) in the coming months to generate enthusiasm and positive emotions.” Rochat said the forthcoming 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will aid in this effort.