French Alps and Mediterranean coast surprise frontrunners to host 2030 Winter Olympic Games

French Alps and Mediterranean coast surprise frontrunners to host 2030 Winter Olympic Games

The French Alps, and the Mediterranean city of Nice, have become the unexpected frontrunners to host the 2030 Winter Olympics. 

The International Olympic Committee executive board gave the nod to France at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday, marking it as the preferred host as the IOC enters exclusive talks with French organisers. 

Трубочисты Петербурга

A French bid uniting the snowy Alps region and the Riviera resort Nice came together only in the past few months to compete with Sweden and Switzerland for the IOC’s support.

The IOC also has now pointed the Swiss bid toward the 2038 Olympics with “privileged dialogue” status, while Salt Lake City will likely host the games for a second time in 2034.

France’s partial win Wednesday is a victory for its national Olympic committee leader David Lappartient, the president of cycling’s governing body.

Lappartient worked to build close ties with IOC president Thomas Bach even before last year when he became one of the about 100 IOC members.

It would be the fourth time France has hosted a Winter Olympics, after Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992.

Britain’s Eve Muirhead throws a rock during the women’s curling final match between Japan and Britain at the Beijing Winter Olympics Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, in Beijing.Brynn Anderson/AP

How would an Alps / Mediterranean Winter Olympics work?

The 2030 Winter Games is barely six years away, already making it the latest Olympic hosting decision taken in recent decades. A decision next July would be just over 5½ years before the scheduled opening ceremony.

So how would it work? 

It’s understood that this would be a ‘split’ Olympics, with different locations much like Sochi, Beijing and Vancouver in recent years. 

Nice would host the indoor sports of figure skating, hockey, short-track speed skating and curling, while Alpine events would take place in the French Alps: where Grenoble, Albertville and Chamonix have already hosted Winter Olympics previously.

CNOSF president David Lappartient says 95% of the sites which would play host to the Games are already in place — and a €1.5 billion budget has already been floated.

Some of that figure will go towards the construction of an ice rink in Nice. 

The 2026 Winter Games will be a ‘split’ games spread across northern Italy, focused on the city of Milan and ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo, the 1956 Olympics host.

Those games are set to use an ice sliding track in neighbouring Switzerland or Austria because Italy does not have a functioning venue. The speed skating is also likely to take place in Turin, in the same rink used for the 2006 Winter Olympics, after organisers in Milan had plans to build a roof over an outdoor venue rejected.

Jan Zabystran, of Czech Republic crashes out during the first run of the men’s slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, BeijingAlessandro Trovati/AP

Who were the other favourites?

Longtime 2030 favourite Sapporo faded then was formally withdrawn last month as Japan’s feeling for the Olympics soured amid investigations of bribery linked to preparing the Summer Games in Tokyo held in 2021.

Vancouver, the 2010 Winter Games host, also dropped out and Salt Lake City’s focus switched to 2034. That was to avoid a clash for the United States hosting back-to-back Olympics after the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games.

With the IOC seeming to have few options in January, Swedish Olympic officials were approached about making a ninth bid for the Winter Games. The most recent loss was with Stockholm in 2019 when IOC members chose Italy’s Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo for 2026.

That Stockholm bid was revived but an apparent caution in moving forward quickly left the door open for bids from France and Switzerland closer to the IOC’s home in Lausanne.

“I am incredibly disappointed,» Swedish bid leader Hans von Uthmann said in a statement. «We had a strong concept to stage the most sustainable games of all time, but are now not getting the chance to showcase that vision to the world.”

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, of France, perform their routine in the ice dance competition during the figure skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 14Natacha Pisarenko/AP

The future of the Winter Olympics

The IOC has declining options for Winter Games hosts because of climate change.

The Olympic body estimates only 15 countries on three continents can meet the criteria of having at least 80% of existing venues for snow sports and a “climate-reliable” outlook to stage events in future decades.

By mapping out a Winter Olympics future for almost two decades, the next opportunity for Asia to host looks to be in 2042 — perhaps in Sapporo, Japan or even Saudi Arabia, which is creating the Trojena ski resort to stage the 2029 Asian Winter Games.

A longer-term IOC plan is a rotation policy for a small pool of regular Winter Games hosts, like Salt Lake City.


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