— Published 24 July 2023

Switzerland shows strong support for the 2030 Winter Games

The battle for the 2030 Winter Games is heating up. Finally. With less than seven years to go before the event, and a year to go before the IOC’s presumed decision at the Paris 2024 Games session, it’s about time.

After the surprise announcement that a French project backed by two regions – Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côté d’Azur – had entered the scene, Switzerland is now stepping up the pace.

Since announcing its intention to join the “dialogue phase” with the IOC at the end of March, there had been no word on the progress of the project. Clearly, progress is being made. According to the national media, it is even moving in a rather unprecedented direction.

An internal letter from the National Olympic Committee (Swiss Olympic), consulted by the German-language daily Tages Anzeiger, reveals that the 2030 project is benefiting from a heavyweight supporter, which is unusual for a Swiss Olympic bid: Federal Councillor and Minister for Sport, Viola Amherd.

The centrist vice-president of the Swiss Confederation, who has kept a low profile since announcing Switzerland’s intention to join the battle, is said to have decided not only to support the project, but also to make it known.

Her spokesman, Renato Kalbermatten, confirmed: “Federal Councillor Amherd has a fundamentally positive attitude towards efforts to organize large-scale, sustainable Games tailored to Switzerland. She is convinced that international events can trigger lasting changes in society and the economy.

So far, nothing too spectacular. But top-level support for an Olympic bid is a rare occurrence in Switzerland. Above all, it gives Swiss Olympic the green light to continue working on its bid. The organization is currently working on a feasibility study. It will be presented to the General Assembly in September.

Behind the scenes, Swiss Olympic is stepping up its discussions with key players, including the sports federations involved in the Winter Games.

According to the Tages Anzeiger, their elected representatives have decided to form a common front to support the project. Leading the way is the President of Swiss Ski, former downhill world champion Urs Lehmann.

Swiss Olympic’s internal letter points the finger at him: “The involvement of the Olympic winter sports federations from the outset has never happened before.

Another novelty: the Swiss project would no longer be led by a canton. It would be national and could involve the whole country. The project could bring together such emblematic sites as the Saint-Moritz ski resort, the Lauberhorn downhill slope and the Crans-Montana ski resort.

A more familiar refrain: the project would build on existing facilities. It would be inexpensive and sustainable.

There’s just one thing left to do: find a leader to carry the project forward. At this stage, the names mentioned tend to come from the political sphere. In particular, the Swiss daily mentions Lucerne State Councillor Damian Müller of the Radical Democratic Party (FDP), President of the Equestrian Sports Association, and former Aargau State Councillor Pascale Bruderer of the Socialist Party. Both are sometimes presented as credible options to succeed Jürg Stahl, the current President of Swiss Olympic.

Playable? Definitely. After eight often painful failures in the race for the Winter Games over the last four decades, Switzerland still believes it can. Like Sweden and France, its project was not planned. But, like their two European rivals, the Swiss have realized that the “shooting window” has probably never been so wide open.