— Published 26 April 2022

Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030, a bid close to the limit

Time is running out for Spain. But the winds are proving to be contrary. Mired for several months in endless quarrels between Catalonia and Aragon, the Pyrenees-Barcelona bid for the 2030 Winter Games is stalling and getting bogged down.

The latest setback is the postponement of an inspection visit by an IOC delegation. It was scheduled for May. It has been postponed, but without a new date.

The president of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, told the media himself, explaining that such a visit could not take place in the current situation. But the leader insisted that the next few weeks would be decisive.

“The month of May will be the last moment to make everything absolutely clear, explained Alejandro Blanco. We are in a hurry, a representation of the IOC was going to come in May to see the facilities, and now we have to delay it. We are close to the limit and in May everything has to be absolutely clear, otherwise we would have to make another approach.”

Engaged in a race to complete the technical file, Alejandro Blanco thought he had achieved the most difficult thing by obtaining the green light from the Spanish government. But the Olympic leader had underestimated a major obstacle: politics.

The battle between the two regions involved in the Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030 project, Catalonia and Aragon, has accelerated in recent weeks with the revelation of the map of venues. It provides for a sharing of disciplines between the two regions: alpine skiing, snowboarding, artistic skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pyrenees, plus ice hockey in Barcelona; biathlon, cross-country skiing, skating (artistic, speed and short-track) and curling in Aragon.

The scheme has been approved by the Spanish authorities. Catalonia has accepted it. But Aragon did not want it, finding it unfair and unbalanced. Its representatives even went so far as to boycott a working meeting in early April. Their seats remained empty.

Since then, Alejandro Blanco has been trying to pick up the pieces. “We have presented a candidacy, endorsed by the Government of Spain, with which we want to make some games with Catalonia and Aragon. That is the approach we want, there is no other. We are not going to leave to fight for this approach and we are going to move forward. The important thing is that we get the Games in Spain. They will benefit everyone.”

A new meeting is scheduled for the next few days. It will put the question of the distribution of venues and sports between the two regions back on the table. Although it is not expected to be decisive, it could finally unblock tensions or, on the contrary, bog down the project a little more.

At the same time, Salt Lake City is advancing its plans. The capital of Utah has not yet formally decided whether to go all out for the Games in 2030, at the risk of commercial competition with Los Angeles 2028, or to aim for the 2034 edition instead. But the Americans do not want to drag their feet.

Unlike the Spanish, they will receive a visit from the IOC in the next few days. Led by the Romanian Octavian Morariu, the president of the future host commission for the Winter Games, the delegation sent by Lausanne is due to visit Salt Lake City from 27 to 29 April. Three non-stop days to inspect the proposed sites, meet the project’s sponsors and weigh up the pros and cons of the American bid.

The IOC’s visit to Utah will be the first since the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) designated Salt Lake City as a candidate city for the Winter Games in December 2018.