Graubünden voters rejected Olympic bid in rebellion against Swiss canton's 'coercion'
The people of the Graubünden region of Switzerland voted no in a referendum on whether the resorts of Davos and St Moritz should bid to host the 2026 winter Olympic Games, in part in rebellion against a feeling that they were being ‘coerced’ into welcoming the games, according to a report.
The swissinfo.ch website reported: “The authorities gave the new project their full support – this time perhaps too much.
“This was one of the most likely explanations for voters’ recent slap in the executive’s face…”
The site reported one man, a ‘no’ voter, as saying: “The government’s pro-campaign went too far,” while a woman added: “It really was all about coercion,” and a third said: “There was simply too much pressure exerted.”
The field of possible Swiss candidates to host the games was reduced to just one, a bid led by Sion in western Switzerland, after Swiss Olympic, the country’s national Olympic committee, said last month that it accepted the result of the Graubünden referendum.
An earlier mooted bid by Graubünden to host the 2022 edition of the games was scrapped in 2013 after it was rejected by voters. This time, 60.1 per cent of voters were against the canton paying SFr25 million ($25.2 million) to help finance the 2026 bid.
Andreas Glaser, professor of public law at the University of Zurich, and director of the Centre for Democracy Studies in Aargau, said: “The cantonal government dealt with this vote differently than other issues which the state has supported in the past. If the government were that aggressive on every vote issue, then people might have accepted it. But the Olympic vote was given a disproportionate importance.”
For example, Glaser pointed out, a round table conference on the issue was attended by all five members of the cantonal government, but no opponents were invited. Glaser said that such an approach was highly unusual, adding: “In such a case people cannot form their own true opinion.”
The late publication of voting materials and information for the general public meant that there was also confusion over details of the project, such as where the competitions would take place and where Olympic villages would be located, the website reported.
Earlier this month, Swiss Olympic decided to press ahead with a bid to host the games, after its executive committee backed the project from Sion, which is centred on the western cantons of Valais, which includes winter sports resorts such as Zermatt and Verbier, and Vaud, in which Lausanne, the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, is located.
There had originally been four options on the table for Swiss Olympic, but ‘Switzerland 2026’ and ‘2026. Games for our future’ first merged and then joined ‘Sion 2026. The Games in The Heart of Switzerland,’ supported by the cantons of Valais, Vaud, Fribourg and Bern.
Switzerland has hosted the winter Olympics only twice before, in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz. Sion bid unsuccessfully to stage the games in both 2002 and 2006.
Other possible bidders include Stockholm in Sweden, a city in Norway, Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada, while a feasibility study is being conducted by the Austrian Olympic Committee regarding the state of Tyrol and the city of Innsbruck.
The next two winter Olympics are slated for Asia, in PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022.