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Olympic dream not out of reach for Swiss

The dream of hosting Olympic Games in Switzerland lives on

(Keystone)

Does Zurich's decision not to bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics suggest that Switzerland is not in a position to host the world's biggest sporting event?

For Jean-Loup Chappelet, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Administration, the main problem is a lack of political will.

Several Swiss bids to host Olympic Games came to an early end, either because of a lack of funding or because voters refused to give the green light.

Nevertheless the national Olympic Association has not given up hope that Switzerland is able to stage the Games. It said it was ready to make a new attempt, despite Zurich’s withdrawal last Tuesday from the race for the 2014 event.

In an interview with swissinfo, Jean-Loup Chappelet, a professor at the Lausanne-based Graduate School of Public Administration, calls for increased cooperation between the regions and the federal authorities.

swissinfo: Switzerland only hosted Olympic Games in 1928 and 1948, every other bid failed. Is the country simply no longer capable of organising such an event?

Jean-Loup Chappelet: I think Winter Games are not out of reach for Switzerland. And why not Summer Games if we can come up with some fresh ideas.

From a technical point of view the Zurich bid was excellent. It might come as a bit of a surprise, but there seems to be a trend to award Winter Games to cities, which are some distance away from the mountains.

swissinfo: The Swiss Olympic Association had taken some of the blame for the failure and wants to do more for future candidates. Why should they insist on hosting games?

J-L. C.: I agree that improvements are necessary in the choice of host cities. The case of Zurich shows that there were concerns about financial risks and fears that the city would be left with a mountain of debts after the Games.

It’s necessary to find new ways of funding such events and to seek strong partners. The cantonal and federal authorities have to increase cooperation.

The government says it can only contribute a third of the funds for a bid, but maybe the laws should be changed. You can’t deny that Olympic Games have both a national and international dimension.

swissinfo: What possible candidates do you suggest?

J-L. C.: Three scenarios are possible: Firstly, a resort such as St Moritz. But transport problems make this impossible.

Secondly, a city such as Zurich, or the capital, Bern. But they have both failed in the past.

Finally, there is the option of a town such as Albertville in Canada and LiIlehammer in Norway. For Switzerland this could mean a bid by a town in the Valais region.

swissinfo: But is the Valais not traumatised after its Sion bid failed twice in a row?

J-L. C.: That’s why the national Olympic Association should step up its efforts. It should go and talk to the authorities in Sion and in Zurich and convince them that it is feasible to stage such an event also from a financial point of view.

Inevitably the task gets more difficult after a failed bid. But it might be possible to turn things round if the federal authorities decide to take a bigger role.

swissinfo: How much of a blow is Zurich’s withdrawal for the city or for the image of Switzerland?

J-L. C.: I think the fact that there is no suitable football stadium in Zurich for the 2008 European Championships is much worse than the failed Olympic bid.

The project for a new football stadium was reasonable and was already quite advanced. The Olympic bid, however, will soon be forgotten.

Zurich’s withdrawal did not go unnoticed by other countries and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in particular. Therefore I would not be surprised if Switzerland has to pay the price some time in the future.

swissinfo: Do you think the International Olympic Committee might consider moving away from the Swiss city of Lausanne?

J-L. C.: The IOC doesn’t make its presence in Switzerland dependent on a Swiss bid in any way. I think the committee might even be relieved about Zurich’s decision. It’s a difficult tricky position for them to be based in a candidate country.

swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froidevaux

In brief

Last week promoters of a bid to stage the 2014 Winter Olympics in Zurich withdrew their bid.

Switzerland has only hosted Olympic Games on two occasions: in the mountain resort of St Moritz in 1928 and 1948.

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Key facts

Failed Olympic bids:

1985: voters in canton Graubünden rejected funding for a bid to stage the Winter Games in 1996.
1995: Sion loses out to Salt Lake City for the right to host the 2002 Winter Games.
1999: Sion loses its second bid, which is won by Turin.
2002: Voters in Bern reject a SFr22.5 million ($17.7 million) credit to host the Games in 2010.
2004: Zurich withdraws its bid to host the 2014 Games.

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