The Swiss Olympic committee's executive board has voted to back Sion's bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The joint proposal - “Sion 2026: The games in the heart of Switzerland” – comprising cantons Valais, Vaud, Bern and Fribourg was selected by the executive committee of Swiss Olympic on Tuesday as the Swiss bid for the Winter Games.
Swiss Olympic, Switzerland's umbrella organisation for the Olympic Games, said it supported the Sion project as it was based largely on existing infrastructure, which would enable a Winter Games ‘of human size’ and with a ‘reasonable’ budget. The plan to include different regions and areas of expertise to organize the sports competitions and the strategy to strengthen tourism were welcomed.
A Swiss Olympic task force suggests hosting the Winter Olympics and Paralympics could have a "significant economic impact" of up to CHF2.5 billion ($2.47 billion).
However, there are still several major hurdles to cross before the Sion organisers can celebrate.
Swiss Olympic’s Extraordinary Assembly must decide on April 11 whether to move forward with the bid. The organisation must then convince the Swiss government and prepare a feasibility study.
Referendums may also be held in the respective cantons, with the issue of the financing likely to take centre stage.
If it goes ahead, Switzerland must submit its official candidacy to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in spring 2018 before a final vote on the host city takes place in summer 2019. Other potential bidders are currently Innsbruck, Austria and Calgary, Canada.
Sion was the only Swiss option after voters in canton Graubünden last month rejected a possible bid by St Moritz and Davos. This was the second such refusal in recent years. In 2013, voters in Graubünden decided against a bid for the 2022 Winter Games.
Switzerland hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948. Since then, it has submitted numerous unsuccessful bids, with Sion losing out three times: 1976, 2002 and 2006.