Content - Winter Olympics 2026: Switzerland vs. Japan?

  • February 27, 2018

Winter Olympics 2026: Switzerland vs. Japan?

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – After the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in South Korea, the sports world may see a battle of Switzerland versus Japan over the hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2026. Two of the four candidate cities may be Sion in the Swiss canton of Valais and Sapporo on the Japanese Northern island Hokkaido. The other two possible candidates are Stockholm (Sweden) and Calgary (Canada). All four cities are currently participating in the so-called dialogue stage of the International Olympic Committee. The selection of the candidate cities will take place in the fall of this year and the final vote over the venue one year later.

City of Sion in the Rhone Valley

Sion’s long bidding history

Located in the Rhone Valley, Sion is familiar with the Olympics bidding process: It lost in 1976 to Denver, in 2002 to Salt Lake City and in 2006 to Turin. Now, it has been chosen again, this time among five candidate cities within Switzerland, for a fourth attempt.  

The Swiss Olympic Association decided in March 2016 to make a bid for the 2026 games. Five areas were interested, but the Western Switzerland bid prevailed: Sion came to the fore after Lausanne and Crans-Montana withdrew and was finally chosen against Montreux. The Sion Games would also include venues in a square area marked by the cities of Lausanne, Martigny, Visp and Bern.  

Positive aftermath of Pyeongchang?

The first stage of the bidding process for the 2026 Games is set for 10th June when the population of the canton of Valais will vote on the proposal. According to some polls, a majority may reject the bid. But the bid supporters hope for a positive aftermath effect of the Winter Olympics 2018 in Pyeongchang in South Korea where Swiss athletes won 15 medals. 

“Switzerland’s presence at the Winter Olympics has shown that in the fields of sport, hospitality and the media, Switzerland has the Winter Olympics in its blood. The plebiscite carried out in the worlds of sport, politics and business at PyeongChang for the Sion candidature in 2026 is a very encouraging sign,” commented Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, Head of Presence Switzerland, at the end of the Pyeongchang games.  

Governmental support

In case of a positive vote in the canton of Valais, the project will be taken to the National Federal Council and the Council of States to receive approval. The Swiss government declared its backing to Sion’s proposed bid in October last year, and pledged up to CHF 1 billion in support. The Olympic committee expects costs of CHF 2 billion.  

In February, the Swiss government asked the Swiss parliament to reject the request of representative Silvia Semadeni for a national referendum because the popular sentiment in Switzerland towards hosting the Olympics is rather negative. The bid of Graubünden and Partners was rejected during a public referendum on 12 February 2017. In 2013, Switzerland’s proposed bid from St Moritz/Davos was also rejected by a local referendum.  

No referendum in Sapporo

Sapporo as Japanese contender for the 2026 Olympics also will have the support of the Japanese government. On 15 November 2017, Sapporo got approval from the Japan Olympic Committee. There will be no public referendum on the bid.  

Sapporo promised that 90 percent of the facilities are within half an hour from the Olympic village. One focus region is going to be Niseko, which is considered the world’s second-snowiest resort, while the Olympic village would be built close to Sapporo stadium.  

Sapporo was host of the 1972 Winter Games, which were the first ever in Asia. After South Korea in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, another Asian location would normally not be permitted. But the IOC has already declared a suspension of this informal rule because there might be no candidates from Europe or the Americas.  

Paring down the bid

In 2016, Sapporo predicted hosting costs of up to 457 billion yen (4.3 billion US-Dollars). But during the Pyeongchang Games, Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto signaled that Sapporo is looking to pare down its planned bid to host the 2026 Winter Games in line with the International Olympic Committee’s emphasis on cost-efficiency.  

“We are on the same page as the IOC. It’s clear that ‘compact’ will be the keyword of these games,” Akimoto said in Pyeongchang. According to the Kyodo report, Akimoto was confident IOC President Thomas Bach came away impressed by Sapporo’s potential bid after the German visited Japan House in Gangneung, South Korea.  


Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ; Photo: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

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