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  • Is St. Moritz the Fast Track to a Future Swiss Olympic Bid? -- Top Story Replay


    01/25/20

    (ATR) Thomas Bach greeted teen-aged athletes and observed women’s monobob competitors start their sleds with vigor at an iconic Olympic venue that has been sustainable for more than seven decades

    Bach poses for photos with Romanian athletes at top of the bobsleigh track. (ATR)
    It was a sun-drenched afternoon at the St. Moritz Olympia Bob Run, which snakes through the snowy hillside of the 1928 and 1948 Olympic host city in the Swiss Albula Alps. Bach, accompanied by bobsleigh and skeleton federation president Ivo Ferriani, Lausanne 2020 president Virginie Faivre, HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Future Winter Games commission chairman Octavian Morariu, among others, relished the Winter Youth Olympic Games’ moment in the sun.

    “It’s great for these young athletes to compete on the one-and-only natural track in bobs, luge and skeleton, and of course, it is a great legacy and heritage of the Games and to see the track still working every year, after more than 70 years, is really something quite special,” Bach tells Around the Rings in the start area in between runs of the women’s monobob event.

    The return to the historic Swiss venue as part of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, in addition to speed skating being contested on the ski resort’s frozen lake, happens less than a week after a Brazilian judge ordered Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Park venues shut down due to safety concerns and poor maintenance. The return of the Games to the Olympic capital comes at a time when the citizens of many cities and countries still remain skeptical about how an Olympic Games can benefit them over the long term.

    “If this kind of track would be possible in more places in the world it would be great progress – this is why I’m so happy that we can organize the Youth Olympic Games here,” Bach says about St. Moritz’ historic and highly sustainable venue.

    Young monobob pilots and skeleton athletes seemed overjoyed to race for Olympic medals at speeds approaching 130 km/h in such a spectacular setting, unconcerned about the challenges that the IOC still faces in attracting viable and supportive bid cities, in lieu of the Agenda 2020 and more recent New Norm reforms.
    U.S. monobob pilot Maddy Cohen navigates the famed Horse Shoe curve. (Virginie Faivre)

    “I’m sure they get (the history) because here in the start area I’ve met quite a number of Olympic champions and medalists and they are giving this message and some of them even have kids competing here,” Bach said.

    Seventeen-year-old Alexander Cjudaj won a monobob gold medal for Germany on Monday, 26 years after his father, Harald, who was present to witness his son’s victory in St. Moritz, drove to four-man gold in Lillehammer 1994.

    The Cjudaj gold medal was just another memorable and special moment from these YOG, but for a country with such deep roots and unbridled passion for ski and winter sport – particularly St. Moritz, as its widely considered as the birthplace of winter sports tourism - recent Winter Olympic bids for 2026 from both St. Moritz and Sion have faltered due to lack of public support.

    Voters in the Swiss canton of Graubuenden rejected a joint bid between St. Moritz and Davos in February 2017 with 60 percent voting against. In a tighter vote in 2013, the region also refused to support a 2022 bid, despite the project being considered the favorite for the return of the Olympic Games to Switzerland for the first time since 1948.

    The Sion bid was also rejected with 54 percent of local residents voting against.

    Considering the immense enthusiasm surrounding the Lausanne 2020 YOG, ATR asked the IOC president if he hopes for another Winter Games bid from Switzerland.

    “That is up to the Swiss people – they have to decide,” Bach replied. “We, with our new procedure, are always open to a dialogue. Now the ball is in the court of the Swiss.”

    Flying High with the Lausanne 2020 President
    Lausanne 2020 president Faivre, Yodli the mascot, and HRH Prince Albert II in St. Moritz. (ATR)

    Lausanne 2020 president Virginie Faivre, a three-time world champion in ski halfpipe and a Lausanne native, officially opened the halfpipe at the Leysin Ski Resort on Monday, taking a ceremonial run before the youth athletes began competition for medals.

    She was appointed to her position early in January 2019 after Swiss IOC member Patrick Baumann suddenly died at the Buenos Aires 2018 Summer YOG. 

    “To have these Games here is something meaningful that I’ll always remember and the public is really enjoying these Games, living them and supporting the youth,” Faivre says during an interview with ATR while walking down the bobsleigh track.

    “The athletes have been performing exceptionally at these great venues, so we are really excited."

    While Faivre won’t commit entirely to advocating for a future Swiss Olympic Games, she hopes the Lausanne 2020 Olympic flame is the spark.

    “Here in Switzerland, it’s important to leave the decision to our population, but for us, it’s important to show that we can host Olympic Games. I hope we’ve done an amazing job to welcome the Youth Olympic Games.

    “Personally, I hope that Generation 2020 will carry on the flame,” Faivre said.

    Swiss Fighter Pilot says ‘Take it Slow’

    Lausanne 2020 CEO Ian Logan also believes these Youth Olympic Games can be a catalyst and model for change within the Olympic Movement, potentially influencing Swiss and other alpine nation bids for future Winter Games.

    “The magic of the Flame coming to Switzerland and the different regions shows that something is happening here – the people are proud and the enthusiasm and atmosphere at the eight venues is really amazing,” said Logan, who is also a pilot in the Swiss Air Force.

    Logan noted that 240,000 spectators, including 80,000 school children, have attended events through nine days of competition. Broadcast of competitions have been seen on television and online in 190 countries.

    However, despite the bobsleds careening down the sinuous St. Moritz track at breakneck speeds, Logan says everything must proceed slowly in Switzerland.

    “Being Swiss, I would say we have to wait until the end of the Games and the financial results,” Logan said. “If we go too fast in our democracy, we will block the people, but I think what we’ve done up to now is something very impressive.

    “The flame coming back to Switzerland creates an amazing enthusiasm around Olympism in Switzerland,” he said. “I’m very positive that this will trigger new ideas and a new Games with a new norm in Switzerland.

    “The momentum has never been so strong.”

    Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in St. Moritz

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