— Published 8 November 2023

The French Alps, a bid “to win”

The finish line is not yet in sight. There are still three competitors in the race. And, let’s face it, it’s still hard to distinguish between a leader and two followers, between France, Sweden and Switzerland. But the French Alps’ bid to host the Winter Games in 2030 is making no bones about it: it’s in it to win it.

Launched without much fanfare in mid-July, following a working lunch at the Elysée Palace with Emmanuel Macron, the French Olympic and Paralympic project took another step forward on Tuesday November 7. An important piece: the submission to the IOC of the bid file, a document of over a hundred pages prepared and drafted in a sprint, in the style of an “operation coup de poing“.

On the same day, it was presented to the media at a press conference held at the headquarters of the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) in Paris. On the podium were three of the bid’s supporters (photo above, from left to right): David Lappartient, President of the CNOSF, Marie-Amélie Le Fur, her counterpart from the French National Paralympic Committee (CPSF), and Laurent Wauquiez, President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AURA) region. From a distance, by videoconference: Renaud Muselier, President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region, Marie Bochet, eight-time Paralympic champion in alpine skiing, and Martin Fourcade, five-time Olympic gold medallist in biathlon, who is also an IOC member on the Athletes’ Commission.

The cast is carefully chosen, with two representatives of the sporting movement, two elected politicians and two athletes. Nothing to say, the balance is respected, even if the politicians spoke for the longest time.

So the bid was submitted. Without the slightest surprise, it adopts without a comma’s change the new watchwords of the Olympic universe, brandished by the IOC as rallying signs for the Games’ candidates: sustainability, sobriety, cost control and use of existing venues. “Sober, economical Games, where we will celebrate sport and our mountains,” summed up David Lappartient, going so far as to suggest that France possessed in the Alps “the most beautiful mountains in the world, designed for the Olympic Games.”

In broad terms, there are no surprises: France is complying to the letter with the rules of the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5. In detail, the two French regions’ bid is also in line with current trends.

Two regions, four clusters. With Laurent Wauquiez still with the Républicains and Renaud Muselier having left them to join Renaissance, the balance of the map of sites looked perilous, to say the least. The result proves otherwise. The French project proposes four clusters, two in each of the two regions.

In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, the city of Nice has the lion’s share of the ice events (figure skating, ice hockey, short-track and curling) in a new ice rink to be built. It would also inherit an athletes’ village, media centers (MPC and IBC) and the closing ceremony. The region’s other, more alpine, hub would host skicross and snowboardcross at Isola 2000, and snowboard and freestyle skiing between Serre-Chevalier and Montgenèvre.

In the AURA region, the two Savoyard départements will have their own events. In Savoie, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton on the La Plagne slope, alpine skiing in Méribel for women and Courchevel for men, and the ski jump in Courchevel (ski jumping and Nordic combined jumping). In Haute-Savoie, cross-country skiing in La Clusaz (plus Nordic combined cross-country skiing), biathlon in Le Grand Bornand, Alpine slalom in Val d’Isère. The region will also host the opening ceremony.

The only unknown factor: the speed skating oval. France doesn’t have one, and won’t be building one. Two options are on the table: a temporary facility installed in a convention center or exhibition center, like Milan-Cortina 2026, or an existing track abroad. The question will not be decided in the coming weeks.

To each his own ceremony. The idea is not new, as Milan-Cortina 2026 tried it out four years earlier: the French Alps project envisaged holding the ceremonies in two different locations. The opening in the AURA region, the closing in Nice, in the PACA region. For the first of the two, nothing has yet been decided. But Laurent Wauquiez has suggested the possibility of paying tribute to the three cities that have already hosted the Winter Games: Chamonix (1924), Grenoble (1968) and Albertville (1992). The ceremony would take place in one of them, to respect the athletes’ desire for a single parade of delegations, but the other two could experience the event via a series of “tableaux“, the concept of which has yet to be invented.

A still vague budget. When asked about the projected budget for the 2030 Winter Games, David Lappartient didn’t put forward any figures. All he suggested was that it should not exceed that of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Games, i.e. 1.5 billion euros. “The Games will have to finance the Games,” the CNOSF president argued, pointing out that a dozen private partners of the Paris 2024 OCOG were already backing the French Alps project.

Can France win? Renaud Muselier is willing to bet his shirt on it. “We’re very well placed to win,” assured the president of the PACA region. Less triumphalist, Laurent Wauquiez insisted on the “trigger” that the Olympic and Paralympic event could represent to “make our mountains, in both regions, the most sustainable in the world.”

Next step: the French bid’s hearing before the IOC’s future host commission. This is scheduled for November 21. David Lappartient has announced that it will be held by videoconference, from the CNOSF headquarters in Paris, with all the project sponsors. A sign of balance.