The Swiss Olympic Association (SOA) has selected the joint site of Bern as the country's candidate site for the 2010 Winter Games, two years after Sion lost its second consecutive bid to host the tournament.
Bern trumped its rival bidder, Davos, by a mere 24 votes, garnering 145 votes from a sports parliament made up of representatives from the country's 32 Olympic sports associations. The Bern delegation jumped from their seats and shouted for joy when the news was announced after a secret ballot.
"We are so happy to have won this nomination," Bern 2010 project leader, Iris Huggler, told swissinfo. "This really means that we did the best we could."
Switzerland's choice will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will make its decision in 2003.
The result of the vote came as a slight surprise after the SOA executive board last month recommended Davos over Bern.
The SOA said Davos had an optimum number of venues, which were close to one another. The Graubünden candidate also had better financing and planning according to the board.
But Huggler shrugged off any suggestions the Bern bid was not up to scratch. "The board's recommendations didn't make things easy for us. But we figured that we just had to fight until the end and that's what we did - now Bern's the winner!"
The president of the Davos bid, Hansjörg Trachsel, said he respected the result of the vote, but thought the east Swiss bid was stronger.
"I think that if you look at the facts, the Davos candidate was better," Trachsel said. "But Bern was chosen, and I accept this because these are the rules."
But Trachsel did suspect the vote was biased.
"I think the majority of the sporting association presidents are from the Bern area and western Switzerland and maybe that was one of the reasons why parliament gave more votes to Bern," Trachsel explained.
Bern plan refined
The Bern bid refined its original plan of holding the events in 15 locations in seven cantons. The organisers reduced the venues to just nine in five cantons, although one of them would be on the other side of the country in St Moritz for the bobsled events.
Venues such as Lucerne, Engelberg and Grindelwald were scrapped, as they were judged unsuitable for hosting large-scale sporting events.
Switzerland, where the winter Games have not been held since 1948, has been in the race to host the Olympics for the last 10 years.
Sion tried twice for the games, losing first to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympiad, then to Torino in 1999 for the 2006 Games despite being considered the front-runner.
Bern is set to face an uphill battle to earn the IOC's approval as the Austrian city of Salzburg is already considered to be the favourite.
But just as big a threat could come from other bids such as Jeonju-Muju in South Korea and Vancouver in Canada. The IOC may wish to hold the Games at a venue outside Europe, and possibly in Asia.
Nevertheless, the Swiss Olympic secretary-general, Martin Rutishauser, said the Bern nomination would receive the association's full backing to ensure it is selected in 2003. "Bern is a good candidate and we are fully behind this candidacy," Rutishauser told swissinfo.
by Samantha Tonkin