GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s federal government said Wednesday it is prepared to pay almost 1 billion Swiss francs ($1.02 billion) toward Sion hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The Swiss federal council voted to support the proposed candidature, which could still be stopped by public opposition.
Federal councilor Guy Parmelin, who heads the department for sports, said the project would be withdrawn if a referendum was lost.
Swiss support comes three days after voters in Austria rejected a proposed 2026 bid by two-time host Innsbruck.
The reasons for Innsbruck’s defeat were difficult to interpret, Parmelin said at a news conference to announce the seven-member council’s decision.
Sion was left as Swiss Olympic’s best option for 2026 after voters in the Graubuenden canton (state) rejected a proposal from St. Moritz and Davos for a second straight time.
“This decision allows us to pursue our work in order to make this candidacy even stronger and to convince the population,” Swiss Olympic president Juerg Stahl said in a statement welcoming the federal support.
Sion’s project could be tested by a referendum in more than one Swiss canton.
The Sion hosting plan, centered on its home canton of Valais, also includes proposed events in neighboring Vaud — home to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne — and German-speaking regions.
The federal council said it could contribute 827 million francs ($842 million) toward the organizing budget. Other possible costs include a contribution to the candidacy, renovating venues, and policing expenses.
Swiss Olympic said Wednesday it expected organizational spending of almost 2 billion francs ($2.04 million) would be offset by projected revenue of 1.15 billion francs ($1.17 million), including a contribution from the International Olympic Committee and ticket sales.
The IOC is scheduled to pick the 2026 host in 2019.
The process has been revised to help potential bid cities, aiming to ease concerns of European voters who have consistently rejected Olympic bid plans since Russia chose to spend $51 billion on massive infrastructure linked to the 2014 Sochi Games.
Switzerland last hosted the Winter Games in 1948 in St. Moritz, which also had the 1928 Olympics.
Sion was the losing candidate to Turin for the 2006 Games, and that defeat seemed to be reflected in a new candidate slogan announced Wednesday: “Rekindle The Flame.”