The race to be named Switzerland's candidate for the 2010 Winter Olympics began in earnest on Thursday with the official handing-in of the two rival bids.
The organisers of the Zurich/Graubünden bid used deadline day to formally launch their candidacy with simultaneous news conferences in Zurich and Chur. Zurich/Graubünden is competing against a joint bid from Berne/Montreux which presented its arguments to the media on Monday.
It's been more than fifty years since Switzerland last hosted the Olympic Games in St Moritz. The town of Sion in canton Valais came close to winning the right to host the 2006 Winter Olympics but lost out in the final vote to the Italian town of Turin.
At Thursday's launch, the committee in charge of the Zurich/Graubünden bid said they had learned the mistakes of Sion's failure. They said the Winter Games now needed to be centred on a big city.
"Zurich is well-known all over the world," says Monika Weber, a member of the city's government, "It's attractive in terms of its sporting installations, economy, culture and hotels. And the city has a good relationship with the canton of Graubünden, a beautiful Alpine region that's easily accessible."
If successful, Zurich would host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the ice hockey tournament. Graubünden would hold most of the competitions in Chur, Flims, Lenzerheide, Davos and St Moritz. The ski-jumping competition would be held in Einsiedeln in canton Schwyz.
Like the Berne/Montreux bid, Zurich/Graubunden is keen to underline its environmental credentials and says the existing sports infrastructure is already in place.
"I'm sure we can hold the Games at existing venues," says Monika Weber, "We don't have to build huge installations that won't be used after the event."
On Monday, the team behind Berne/Montreux presented their candidacy as a truly national bid spread across seven cantons and fifteen locations. Zurich's trump card on the other hand seems to be its international status.
But neither side will be drawn into criticising the other. When Switzerland's sporting associations decide in January which of the two candidates should go forward, national support will be crucial if the games are to be brought back to Switzerland.
by Michael Hollingdale
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