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Zurich says no to 2014 Winter Olympics

Zurich's hopes of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics vanish into thin air Keystone Archive

Zurich has decided not to bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics – the second time in a week that the city has lost the chance to host a major sporting event.

City authorities said on Tuesday that the decision was prompted by concerns over the expected costs and a lack of public support.

It follows the announcement last week that Zurich would not be able to host any of the 2008 European football championship games, owing to a legal wrangle over plans for a new stadium.

“The current public finance position does not permit this sort of commitment in terms of infrastructure, security, general organisation or deficit guarantees,” said the Zurich city authorities in a statement.

Furthermore, officials said public support for the project would have to be “convincingly secured” by 2007 – the date when the International Olympic Committee is due to decide on a host venue.

“From today’s perspective, the risk of rejection is judged as too high,” added the statement.

Under the Swiss direct democracy system, major projects of this kind can be halted by a negative popular vote, even if they enjoy full political support.

Dead end

The decision was taken following talks involving representatives of the city of Zurich, the cantons of Zurich, Schwytz and Graubünden, and the Federal Office for Sport.

It comes despite the clear support of the Swiss Olympic Association.

The association said in March that plans for a Zurich candidacy were “technically good”. At the same time it ruled out support for a rival bid from the Alpine resort of Davos.

However, the organisation insisted that the Zurich city authorities indicate their clear commitment to a number of preconditions.

Among them was a promise of direct financial support and the construction of facilities such as a new ice rink.

Tuesday’s statement makes it clear that talks between the various interested parties failed to reach any agreement on how to share the estimated costs.

Ray of hope

A spokesman for the Swiss Olympic Association regretted the decision not to pursue the bid, which he said would have had every chance of meeting international acceptance.

But he noted that Zurich had not ruled out involvement in a future bid – possibly as early as 2018 – albeit on a different funding basis.

The city authorities said any future Swiss bid to host the Winter Games should be led by the Olympic association with support from the proposed host city and the participating cantons.

They said substantial federal support would be essential to any such bid, but added that the federal authorities could not play the lead role in the process.

Switzerland has twice hosted the Winter Olympics – in 1928 and 1948 – both times in the ski resort of St Moritz.

swissinfo with agencies

The 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics both took place in St Moritz.
Numerous subsequent bids have been dropped at the planning phase, rejected by voters or passed over by the IOC.
Montreux and Bern were supported by the Swiss Olympic Association in their bid to host the 2010 games, but the move was overturned at the polls and Vancouver ended up as the host.

Zurich city authorities say they cannot bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics, citing excessive costs and possible lack of support.

The decision comes after the interested parties – Zurich city, three cantonal authorities and the Federal Office for Sport – failed to reach agreement on cost sharing.

A bid for the 2018 Winter Games has not been ruled out.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR