— Published 5 September 2023

Project Switzerland 2030, the Games for a whole country

A past fraught with failure and disappointment has made her cautious. This is understandable. But Switzerland still dreams of the Winter Olympics. Since last spring, it has even been dreaming about them out loud. And it’s not afraid to be bold.

Switzerland entered the so-called “continuous dialogue” phase with the IOC for the 2030 Winter Games last March, and is shaking things up. In August, its National Olympic Committee, Swiss Olympic, unveiled an unprecedented concept in a bid to win the bid at last: the Games would not be for one city, or even one region, but for an entire country. The Winter Games of Switzerland. A nationwide Olympic and Paralympic event, with competitions in every language zone.

And how do we make it happen? Swiss media outlet Watson.ch had access to the file. The hundred-page document, intended to serve as a “master plan” for a possible bid, proposes a new kind of venue map, with events scattered throughout the confederation.

In all, the Switzerland 2030 project calls for fourteen competition venues. They involve nine cantons: Bern, Graubünden, Obwalden, St. Gallen, Uri, Vaud, Valais, Zug and Zurich. Decentralization, which has long been viewed with suspicion and even hostility by the IOC, has become a trend. It would bring the Games to a record number of cities and regions.

The heart of the event should be in Zurich. Switzerland’s most populous city, with over 400,000 inhabitants, would host the opening and closing ceremonies at Letzigrund Stadium. It would also host the largest of the athletes’ villages. Several other accommodation centers for the delegations are envisaged in Crans-Montana, Davos, Laax, Saint-Moritz, Engelberg and Kandersteg. Some of these will be temporary structures, which will be demolished or rebuilt elsewhere after the Paralympic Games.

The German-speaking part of the Swiss Confederation will inherit the largest number of sites. But French-speaking Switzerland would not be left out. It would receive alpine skiing, with all competitions to be held in Crans-Montana. Lausanne, the Olympic capital, would get a share of ice hockey, ten years after hosting the Winter Youth Games.

For the rest, the project wisely remains within the bounds of the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5 and its requirements in terms of sustainability and respect for the environment. No new sports facilities are envisaged. The speed skating ice ring would be temporary, installed for the duration of the Games in a covered structure in the city of Berne. Bobsleigh, luge and skeleton would be contested on the historic Saint-Moritz track.

At this stage of the process, Switzerland is not yet an official candidate. It is discussing and exchanging views with the IOC, as are Sweden and France, the other two surprise guests in a campaign long dominated by the Japanese from Sapporo. The Americans from Salt Lake City, who entered the battle much earlier, are several steps ahead. However, they have their sights set on the following edition, in 2034, which will be less commercially competitive with the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

The next few weeks will be decisive for the Swiss project. A feasibility study is expected in October. The Swiss Olympic Executive Board, followed by the Sports Parliament, will then decide whether to go ahead with the project. They will also have to decide on the timing. There are three options: go all out for the 2030 Winter Games, when the field has probably never been clearer, or be patient and aim for 2034 or even 2038.