Switzerland seeks to host low-budget Olympics  

Switzerland wants to host the first Winter Olympics spread across an entire country. It also wants to overcome historic opposition by proposing that the games be the cheapest on record.

Winter Games are usually held by a certain region or city, and they can be pricey. The 2018 edition held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, cost about $13 billion. Even back in 2002, Salt Lake City still spent $2.2 billion on the Games.

But Switzerland’s sports federations voted unanimously on Friday to approve the local bid, clearing the way for a $1.6 billion proposal for the 2030 Games. Accounting for inflation, that would make it arguably the cheapest Olympics in history — and the most cost-effective since Los Angeles eked out a profit in 1984.

The bid marks a shift from governments spending billions on hosting Games as a show of power and urban renewal toward a more sustainable Olympics that’s focused on sport. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he wants the Paris 2024 Games to be the cheapest in decades, with the state on the hook for just a quarter of the cost of the two-and-a-half week event.

Still, locals are wary of politicians’ promises.

“I’m for the Games,” Shehu Shkelzen, 63, said as he sipped a beer in a Lausanne cafe just 200 meters from the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters overlooking Lake Geneva. “But 1.5 billion becomes 2 or 2.5. It’s important there are no surprises afterward or we keep paying.”

Though Switzerland has been host to the IOC since 1915 and the Swiss resort of St. Moritz is credited with inventing winter tourism, local skepticism has sabotaged at least three previous bids for the Winter Games. St. Moritz has hosted the Games twice but the last time was in 1948.

When another bid surfaced in 2013 to host the 2022 Games in Graubunden, it was narrowly rejected by wary citizens. A bid for the 2026 Games was again rebuffed by the same canton in 2017 and a year later, a rival effort in the canton of Valais was also rejected.

This time around enthusiasm for hosting the 2030 Winter Games is picking up, in part because of a promise to rein in costs. The fact the Games would be spread right across the country, an Olympic first, with no single canton shouldering the burden helps too. Two out of three Swiss would support a bid, according to a poll they commissioned in August.

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