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Geneva's Olympic 2018 plans fail to impress

Jean-Pierre Jobin (right) and Jean-Loup Chappelet, members of the Geneva exploratory bid committee

(Keystone)

The city of Geneva has unveiled plans for a bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

But the Swiss Olympic Association does not share the same enthusiasm about Switzerland hosting the Winter Games, after recently declaring it was not ready to organise such an event.

Officials in Geneva told a news conference on Friday they had formed an exploratory bid committee for their "ambitious" Olympic project, which also includes cantons Vaud and Valais, where many of the alpine and Nordic ski events would be held.

"We are convinced that a country like Switzerland – the cradle of winter sports in the heart of the Alps – should hold the Games," said Jean-Pierre Jobin, president of Geneva Tourism.

Switzerland has hosted the Winter Olympics twice – in St Moritz in 1928 and 1948. But it has not always been successful: the city of Sion in canton Valais failed in its bids for the 1976, 2002 and 2006 Games.

"Geneva and Switzerland have all the necessary attributes in terms of sports, hotel and transport infrastructure, as well as a sporting tradition, entrepreneurial know-how and enthusiasm," said Marco Torriani, president of the 2018 Exploratory Committee, which has spent the past four years studying a possible bid.

But the road to a successful nomination is a long one. The organisers have to build interest, put the decision to a local vote in 2009, and convince the Swiss Olympic Association, before registering the bid the same year with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In 2010 the Lausanne-based IOC will select its shortlist of cities, before naming the host city in 2011.

Hold your horses

At this stage, opposition already comes from the Swiss Olympic Association, which has the final decision at the national level. The organisation said it was sceptical the country could mount a successful bid for 2018, but remained open if private investors took the financial lead.

"We have evaluated the possibility of organising the 2018 Winter Games and, based on a study by University of Lausanne, we don't have a great chance," Claudia Imhasly, spokeswoman for the Swiss Olympic Association, told swissinfo.

During the 11th meeting of the sports parliament of Swiss Olympic on November 24, the association's president, Jörg Schild, announced that it had given up the idea of bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But Swiss Olympic does not completely shut the door.

"We've known that Geneva has been interested in putting together a bid and they knew that we were not keen," said Imhasly, adding that if a dossier were put together by private investors "it would be studied closely".

"We can't prevent the people from Geneva launching a bid," she noted.

Long list

At this stage, the list of other possible venues for the Games is still uncertain. Munich, Germany, and Pyeongchang, South Korea have both announced that they will make a bid and a handful of others are known to be interested, including Grenoble, France, Denver, United States, and Tromso, Norway.

"The strengths of Geneva are that it is a medium-sized city near the mountains. Also, the accommodation capacities are good and it has hosted many large sporting events, and will be one of the hosts for Euro 2008," Jean-Loup Chappelet told swissinfo.

In June 1999, the IOC awarded the 2006 Winter Games to Turin by 53 votes to Sion's 36. The Swiss, convinced they had put forward the best bid and generally considered favourites, were stunned.

Jérémie Robyr, president of Valais Tourism, is confident this time.

"The IOC now wants the organiser to have a city with quite a sizeable infrastructure – something which Sion didn't have. I think Geneva's bid, with support from Vaud and Valais, is extremely interesting," he said.

"We have learned [from Sion] that it is not enough to have a good technical bid. You also need to convince the IOC from a political point of view and do a lot of international lobbying to the voting members," Chappelet told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Geneva

In brief

Switzerland has close connections to the Olympic movement. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Museum are both based in Lausanne.

Many other international sport federations are also based in Switzerland.

Switzerland has hosted the Winter Olympics twice – in St Moritz in 1928 and 1948.

Sion bid for the 1976, 2002 and 2006 Games but failed each time. Bern entered the running for the 2010 Games but pulled out when citizens rejected a budget of SFr22 million ($17.5 million).

The next Winter Olympics will be held in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

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