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One billion franc Swiss winter Olympic bid sparks backlash

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On Wednesday, Switzerland’s Federal Council said it would stand behind the country’s winter Olympic bid to the tune of nearly one billion francs, according to newspaper 20 Minutes.

The town of Sion, in Valais, is throwing its Olympic hat into the ring as the centerpiece for the 2026 winter games. Other cantons would also host certain events.

In autumn 2019, a choice will be made between Sion, and other possible contenders, including Innsbruck (Austria), Calgary (Canada), Sapporo (Japan), Erzurum (Turkey), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Stockholm (Sweden) and Salt Lake City (US).

Switzerland’s federal government would act as a backstop to cover an expected games operating loss of CHF 827 million. Costs covered by the federal government, including bid costs (8 million), infrastructure (31 million), policing (44 million) and military (85 million), would bring the final estimated bill borne by Bern to CHF 995 million.

At the same time, cantons, which haven’t yet agreed, would be expected to cough up substantial additional sums for infrastructure, security, and Olympic village costs. The canton of Valais is due to decide in June 2018. Other cantons, such as Bern and Fribourg, might also vote on the subject.

The Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) spoke out against what it described as a baffling decision. It thinks this money should instead be spent on defense, an area it says has been neglected for years.

The Green party described the bid as a big financial risk, pointing to a rise in central government contributions of CHF 650 million in less than a year. Given the financial risk, it thinks parliament should be instructed to consider putting the decision to a referendum.

If reader comments on various Swiss news websites are anything to go by, a popular vote on the subject could face a head wind.

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