Swiss can still have Olympic dreams

Not bitter: Jean-Daniel Mudry thinks Switzerland could one day host the Olympic Winter Games Keystone

As the 2006 Winter Olympics kick off in Turin, Jean-Daniel Mudry, who led the Swiss town of Sion's failed bid, tells swissinfo why he isn't bitter.

This content was published on February 5, 2006 minutes

It was third time unlucky for the small town in canton Valais, but Mudry still hopes Olympic athletes will be fighting for medals in Switzerland within 15 years.

In June 1999 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the 2006 Winter Games to Turin by 53 votes to 36. The Swiss, convinced they had put forward the best bid and generally seen as favourites, were stunned.

Sion had already bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which it lost to Salt Lake City, and the 1976 Winter Olympics, which it lost to Innsbruck.

In the main square in Sion, where everyone had gathered to hear the announcement and celebrate their "victory", people spoke of corruption and the mafia. Corruption scandals had previously plagued the votes for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

swissinfo: Will the opening ceremony in Turin bring back bad memories for you?

Jean-Daniel Mudry: It will certainly bring back memories, but not bad ones. I'm a sportsman and I don't blame the umpire if I lose a match.

At the time we were certainly disappointed but we've accepted the decision. We hope that the activity generated by the Games will help promote sport across the whole of the Alps. Switzerland will also benefit from that.

swissinfo: Sion's failure to get the Games provoked a pretty animated reaction from the Swiss. Some people even claimed Sion had deserved it more than Turin. Is it still possible to say that?

J-D.M.: People who said that were thinking of the quality of our bid. We had done a technically excellent job and it was the third time we were in the running.

But the decision is taken by the hundred or so IOC members from around the world and at that level Italy and the Agnelli family [founders of Fiat and a powerful Turin family] had a considerable effect.

I wouldn't say, however, that Sion was more deserving than Turin.

swissinfo: Do you still think Sion lost because of a lack of support?

J-D.M.: Yes. International relations are very important. It's clear that Switzerland doesn't have the same contacts as Italy.

But there is another very important factor. The Italian government supported Turin's bid with a deficit guarantee ten times larger than that made by the Swiss government. The Italians had vital political support which we didn't have.

One should also bear in mind the connections of the Agnelli family, who employ some 250,000 people around the world and are involved in, among other things, Formula One and the Italian football league.

swissinfo: Sion has now been pipped to the Olympic post three times. Will the Winter Games ever come to Switzerland?

J-D.M.: I think so. Tourists come to Switzerland from Asia and America, and these huge spectacles are an important way of spotlighting our alpine region.

I think Switzerland could get the Games within the next 15 years – but that's if all of Switzerland is a candidate and not just a small town such as Sion with its population of only 25,000.

Switzerland has a chance, but it would have to bid as a country.

swissinfo: Like it did with Euro 2008. The growing security costs connected with that event are already ruffling feathers. With this in mind, is it actually a mistake to want the Olympic Games?

J-D.M.: To be honest, I'm disappointed that we having discussions in Switzerland about the cost of security, when you think we're considered one of the richest and safest countries...

We're currently planning a smallish event – Euro 2008 with its four stadiums isn't that important – yet here we are arguing about spending around ten million francs on security. We are making ourselves look ridiculous! You're not going to inspire confidence like that.

swissinfo: What do think the chances are of Swiss athletes bringing back a few medals from Turin?

J-D.M.: There might be a few surprises. In the World Championships, Austria supplies up to ten athletes; in Turin they can only have four per discipline – the same as Switzerland.

I think we will pick up two medals in Alpine skiing and there will also definitely be some snowboarding medals.

I'm not particularly pessimistic, but there is also an element of luck. At the 2003 World Championships in St Moritz, Switzerland picked up four medals; two years later in Bormio we didn't get a single one – even though it was exactly the same team.

swissinfo-interview: Olivier Pauchard

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.

There are five Swiss among the 110 active IOC members – more than any other nations.

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

Bern entered the running for the 2010 Games but pulled out when citizens rejected a budget of SFr22 million ($17.5 million).

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Key facts

Jean-Daniel Mudry was born in Lens, canton Valais, in 1944.
He now works for the Swiss army.
He was head of the Swiss ski federation and head of the committee for Sion's Olympic bid in 2006.

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