— Published 5 January 2023

Switzerland looks to its neighbours for the 2030 Winter Games

Will the race for the 2030 Winter Games soon have a new contender? Possibly. The Swiss daily Le Temps reveals that a working group has been set up in the Valais to work on an Olympic project. It is said to be preparing a bid for the Espace Mont-Blanc for the 2030 edition, bringing together Switzerland, France and northern Italy.

The idea originated in Valais, where successive failed bids for the Winter Games in 1976, 2002, 2006 and 2026 have not stifled all ambitions. The latest failure in particular has left painful traces. Presented as a solid and credible option, the Sion 2006 project was buried by the voters, with the no vote winning by 53.98% in June 2018 in the inevitable “vote” organised in the canton.

But the Olympic dream is not dead. The success of the 2020 Winter Youth Games in Lausanne would even have given it a serious boost.

At this stage, the Swiss project is still in its infancy. But it has already defined a perimeter, the Espace Mont-Blanc. The project would bring together the Valais, the French resort of Chamonix and the Aosta Valley in Italy. A three-country concept that would not displease the IOC, which encourages applicants from neighbouring nations to join forces for the Winter Games.

Realistic? On paper, certainly. The recent decision by the IOC Executive Board to postpone the awarding of the 2030 Winter Games to the 2024 Paris Games session opens the way for new bids. It gives time to build a file and to start the dialogue phase with the future host commission.

But the project led by Valais will have to overcome a major obstacle: the reluctance of the Swiss National Olympic Committee to embark on the adventure so quickly. When questioned by Le Temps, Swiss Olympic spokesman Alexander Wäfler was categorical: “The only entity that can decide whether the time is right to submit a bid is Swiss Olympic. And we don’t think it is realistic to do so for an Olympic Games that will take place in just over seven years’ time.”

The message from Swiss Olympic is clear: a bid is not out of the question, but not before 2034 or 2038. Caution.

The end of the story? Perhaps not. Reduced to a two-way match between Sapporo and Salt Lake City since Vancouver withdrew, the battle for the 2030 Winter Games is now moving forward on one leg after the Japanese announced last month that they were putting their project on hold. The Americans, for their part, have made no secret of their preference for the Games in 2034, as the 2030 option seems to them to be poorly equipped to face the commercial competition of the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

At this stage, the scenario of a pure and simple withdrawal of Sapporo is not excluded, as the Japanese have explained that they want to organise a national consultation before relaunching the mechanism. The race for the Winter Games would then be reduced to a single bid, Salt Lake City.

In such a context, the IOC would certainly be more than relieved to see a new bid come to the table. And even, who knows, to offer it the best seat.

The promoters of the Espace Mont-Blanc project will have to act quickly. But by proposing a low-cost, sustainable and politically solid cross-border project, they could convince the IOC. And dispel the fears of Swiss Olympic.