Bach: I hope Agenda 2020 will persuade Swiss people to back Sion Olympic bid
Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, has expressed hope that the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms will help turn the tide of public opinion over the bid of Sion in Switzerland to host the 2026 winter Olympic Games, after a poll found that only 36 per cent of Swiss people were in favour of the bid.
Speaking in PyeongChang, where he is attending the winter Paralympic Games under way there, Bach told Swiss public-service broadcaster RTS: "The debate is just beginning. It’s necessary to convince the Swiss that the Olympic Games can help a region, renew it, and allow it to welcome the best winter sport athletes in the world.
“It’s up to the Swiss to decide. I hope that the reforms made to the 2020 Olympic agenda show people that we want a feasible, sustainable event that makes use of existing or temporary infrastructures, and there Switzerland has a lot to offer.”
Reforms contained in Agenda 2020 include a raft of measures aimed at reducing the costs of bidding for and hosting the Olympics.
In the opinion poll published in Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung newspapers, 43 per cent of Swiss respondents said they were against the Sion 2026 bid, with 16 per cent “quite against.” Only 20 per cent said they were in favour, while 16 per cent said they were “quite in favour.” Five per cent had no opinion.
The poll results have sounded an ominous note ahead of a referendum on whether the bid should proceed that is due to be held in Valais, the Swiss canton of which Sion is the capital, on 10 June, albeit officials have pointed out that the opinion poll was not confined to Valais, but covered the whole of Switzerland.
Jürg Stahl, president of Swiss Olympic, the country’s national Olympic committee, and of Sion 2026, told Sportcal in February: “We are just at the beginning of our campaign and we have a lot on our plate. This poll was conducted at a very early stage and throughout Switzerland. It comes very early - it gives us some valuable input though which will help us fine-tune our campaign.”
The IOC said last month that it has been holding talks about a bid for the games in its new ‘invitation phase’ with four cities: Sion; Sapporo in Japan; Stockholm in Sweden; and Calgary in Canada. However, Graz and Schladming, two cities located in the Austrian province of Styria, have also recently said that they are exploring the possibility of launching a bid, while a US bid is also a possibility.
The IOC must receive expressions of interest for 2026 by the end of March.