Fifty-four per cent of voters in the Swiss canton of Valais have said no to bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Citizens in the largest towns in the region, including Sion which would have been the host city, rejected the plan which would have seen CHF100 million ($100 million) of their tax money pay for some of the infrastructure and security.
Perhaps surprisingly, voters also said no in some of the largest ski areas in the canton, including Zermatt and Nendaz - the latter linked to the fashionable resort of Verbier. Crans-Montana and Saas-Fee were two mountain resorts where voters approved the bid.
Sion 2026 was the latest attempt to bring the Olympic games to Switzerland for the first time since St Moritz in 1948.
If Valais voters had approved the budget, the federal government said it would chip in almost CHF1 billion to help cover the costs. The total budget was estimated at CHF2.4 billion.
Opponents of the Sion 2026 bid argued the Games would go over budget, as is often the case. They said Valais, a financially weak canton in the Swiss Alps, would be better off investing in roads, hospitals and social services. Nor did they have much confidence in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), despite its adoption of a Agenda 2020, a reform strategy to optimise budgets and to reduce the complexity of the Games.
For their part, supporters said the Olympics would have given the region more visibility, develop tourism, and generate momentum.
On Sunday, the IOC blamed misinformation for the vote loss.
"From the polls, we understand that outdated information on the cost of the Games was the main concern for those voting against the funding," it said.
The Swiss Tourism Federation also regretted the decision, saying in a statement (in German) that the games would have put the spotlight on Switzerland, creating thousands of jobs, and turnover of around CHF5 billion.
In April, the IOC confirmed that six other cities were also vying for the 2026 games: Canada’s Calgary, Austria’s Graz, the Swedish capital Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and an Italian bid involving Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin.
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