The Swiss capital Bern has made it on to the shortlist of contenders to host the 2010 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday.This content was published on August 28, 2002 - 13:50
The front-running cities of Vancouver (Canada) and Salzburg (Austria) also made the cut, along with Pyeongchang (South Korea).
Bern edged out several other cities including Sarajevo (Bosnia), Jaca (Spain), Harbin (China) and Andorra La Vella (Andorra) to make it on to the shortlist.
The head of Bern's bid, Martin Hodler, told swissinfo that he was overjoyed to learn the news.
"We are very happy to be amongst the four candidate cities...and we will do our best" to impress the full IOC assembly which will pick a winner at its session in Prague, Czech Republic, in July of next year.
The finalists have until January 10, 2003 to submit their bid to the IOC after which time the Committee will send a panel of experts to visit the cities and compile a detailed report on their sports venues, financial plans and other issues.
Committee members are not allowed to tour the sites, a new regulation brought in after the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.
The promoters of Bern's bid must now earn the support of the people of canton Bern, who will vote on September 22 on whether to approve a budget of SFr22.5 million for the Games.
The funding will come directly from the canton's coffers.
Hodler said the Bern committee would now concentrate on garnering support ahead of the vote. "This has first priority because [the entire project] depends on that 'yes' from the Bernese," he said.
"It's a great chance for the canton, which is already financially hard up," the Bern committee director, Dres von Weissenfluh, told swissinfo.
"It'll be important for tourism and investment and it'll also signal the importance of Switzerland as a centre for winter sports."
Switzerland was the first country to host the Winter Olympics in St Moritz in 1948, and it was high time, von Weissenfluh added, for the Games to "come home".
However, Bern's chances of actually winning the right to stage the 2010 Games are seen as slim.
Despite making the shortlist, the bid was found to be lacking in several areas. The IOC noted in its report that the Bern bid "does not best respond to the needs of the athletes and could create significant organisational difficulties."
The ball is now in the Bern committee's court, Hodler said, "and we will study in detail what the experts said and do our best to come to the level of the two leaders [Vancouver and Salzburg]."
A second factor not working to the Swiss capital's favour is that both upcoming Olympics will be staged in Europe - the 2004 Summer Games (Athens, Greece) and the 2006 Winter Games (Torino, Italy).
Several European cities are preparing their bids for the 2012 Summer Games - including Paris, Moscow, Rome and Madrid - and it is likely that the Committee would not wish to choose another European city for 2010.
It is the fourth time that Bern has bid to host the Winter Games since 1969, and it hopes to make up for Sion's defeat to Torino for the 2006 Games.
swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin
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