Sion 2026 have confirmed their bid for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games is over after 54 per cent of residents in a Canton-wide referendum voted against releasing funding of CHF100 million (£76 million/$101 million/€87 million).

In a statement issued after the results of the referendum were announced, the Sion 2026 Executive Committee said it would “return its mandate to organise Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games issued by Swiss Olympic and will prepare to dissolve”.

Philippe Varone, President of the City of Sion, admitted the defeat was the “end of the project” and there was “no plan B”, effectively ending any slim hopes of a revival of the bid.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) blamed the loss on “outdated information on the cost of the Games”.

The IOC added in a statement that this was the “main concern for those voting against the funding” and claimed the “recent fundamental reforms undertaken by the IOC have unfortunately not been taken into consideration”.

Citizens across Valais voted “no” on the proposed funding package, which would have seen some of their tax money used to pay for infrastructure and security.

Residents in the city of Sion itself voted against with a 61 per cent majority.

The confirmation leaves six potential candidates in the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid race.

Voters in Zermatt and Nendaz, considered among the largest ski resorts in the Canton, rejected the plan, but people in the mountain resorts of Crans-Montana and Saas-Fee voted yes.

The Federal Government had pledged around CHF1 billion (£759 million/$1 billion/€860 million) to help cover the costs had the referendum been successful.

Polls in the lead-up to the crunch referendum, which had a turnout of 62.5 per cent, had been too close to call but Sion 2026 and Swiss Olympic officials claimed they were confident of victory.

The referendum defeat deals what a fatal blow to Sion 2026’s candidacy and the result will also cause concern at the IOC, who have attempted to reduce the cost of bidding and hosting through their “New Norm” reforms.

“Unfortunately we did not accomplish to convince the voters in the canton of Valais of the sustainability and the chances the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2026 in Sion would have brought to the canton and to the whole country of Switzerland,” Swiss Olympic President JĂĽrg Stahl said.

Sion 2026 had claimed last week that the bid could still continue even if it lost the referendum following suggestions other cities in the Canton of Valais might step in to lead the effort.

Crans-Montana, Brig or Zermatt were mooted as being interesting in taking over from Sion.

This appears an unlikely scenario, though, particularly given the lack of support in Sion and other areas of the Valais Canton.

Innsbruck in Austria became the latest city to suffer such a defeat in October, killing their bid for 2026.

A total of 60 per cent of residents in the Canton of GraubĂĽnden also voted against a former rival Swiss 2026 bid.

A referendum for a 2022 bid from Davos, also in GraubĂĽnden, was similarly unsuccessful, as was one in KrakĂłw in Poland and Munich in Germany.

Calgary in Canada is also likely to face a referendum late this year or early in 2019, while Stockholm in Sweden and an Italian bid from Milan, Turin and Cortina d’Ampezzo are still not guaranteed political support.

That leaves Erzurum in Turkey, currently considered a rank outsider, as well as Graz in Austria, the country where the referendum in Innsbruck has already failed, and Sapporo in Japan, which would prefer to bid for the 2030 edition instead.

The IOC is due to approve official candidates at its Session in Buenos Aires in October before a host is chosen in September 2019.

“We would like to thank all those involved who have embarked on this adventure, starting with the Sion 2026 Committee, the Federal Council, the Valais authorities and the city of Sion,” the IOC statement added.

“We also welcome the support of the Swiss Olympic Committee and all the athletes who have been involved in the Sion 2026 bid.

“The broad support of all these stakeholders has fully illustrated Switzerland’s commitment to the Olympic values.

“We share their disappointment, and express our thanks to all those whose commitment to this potential candidature allowed the Swiss people to dream of hosting the Olympic Winter Games 2026.”


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