Q&A with Annecy 2018 bid chief Charles Beigbeder

DURBAN Mon Jul 4, 2011 9:31am EDT

DURBAN (Reuters) - France's Annecy is bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics with Germany's Munich and South Korea's Pyeongchang also in the running.

The International Olympic Committee will elect the winning city on July 6 at its session in Durban, South Africa.

Here is a Q&A with Annecy bid chief Charles Beigbeder:

REUTERS: Why should your city be awarded the 2018 Olympics?

BEIGBEDER: "We wish to stage authentic and compact Games in the heart of the mountains, designed by athletes for the future benefit of Winter Sports all over the world.

"By coming to Annecy in 2018 the IOC would be able to use the authentic global platform of the world's No.1 winter sports destination to capture the imagination of the world and promote the Games not just in one city, region, country or continent but around the world.

"We want to work in partnership with the IOC to maintain the position of the Winter Olympics as one of the world's greatest sporting events and help them overcome the challenges sport faces in the 21st century.

"Our bid has been designed by champion athletes which will ensure the best possible conditions for competitors bringing snow and ice competitions together and creating an exciting spectator experience in the shadow of the Mt Blanc.

"Visitors from every background would be welcomed with open arms by our mountain communities and enjoy a unique celebration of Winter Sports infused with the culture of the French Alps. We would guarantee that every athlete, official, spectator and sponsor would get to enjoy an authentic, all-round mountain experience.

"Finally, at the heart of our vision is the sustainable growth of Winter Sports worldwide. We want to use Games in Annecy to deliver a new blueprint for the long-term growth of winter sports and mountain economies around the world."

REUTERS: What is the strongest selling point of your bid?

BEIGBEDER: "Our strongest selling point is the authentic global platform we can offer to the IOC to promote its values and our desire to work in partnership with them to overcome the challenges sport faces in the 21st Century.

"Annecy is the world's leading destination for winter sports. It offers an unrivalled global platform for the Games, with 10 million visitors from more than 100 countries coming to our region every year.

"The region thus offers 70 million visitors to whom we can promote Olympism over the next seven years.

"Olympism is a way of life in France and we want to give something back to the movement. We are ready to promote the values of the Games worldwide in partnership with the IOC every day between 7th July 2011 and the Games in 2018."

REUTERS: What percentage of facilities do you already have in place and which ones still need to be built?

BEIGBEDER: "We can say that the proportion is half-half. The biathlon stadium, the two freestyle skiing snow parks, the alpine skiing stadium, the slalom stadium and La Plagne sliding center are venues already existing.

"We would then have to build the ice skating center, the speed skating oval, two Nordic centers, the Mont-Blanc and Chamonix ice rinks and one Alpine Paralympic skiing stadium for 10,000 people.

"All of these facilities are or will be permanent. Another venue will have to be built but temporary: the curling center."

REUTERS: How is your Games budget structured and what sort of guarantees are you offering the IOC? How much will be spent in projects indirectly linked to the Games such as infrastructure work in the seven-year run-up?

BEIGBEDER: "According to the IOC requirements, Annecy 2018 has developed 2 budgets:

"The OCOG budget of USD 1.85 billion, covering all operational costs, will be financed by 97 percent of private funds (IOC, partners, licensing, ticketing, ...). The three percent of public funding will be dedicated to the Paralympic Games.

"This budget has been developed in order to deliver the Games according to the IOC requirements and the best level of services.

"The NON-OCOG budget of USD 3.4 billion, covering all capital investments needed for the Games, will be financed by 68 percent of public funding.

"In regards of the capital investments, USD 1.8 billion is already planned or underway. This is due to a good integration of the Olympic needs in the planned territorial developments. So, the incremental costs linked to the games (that should be considered as accelerations of new infrastructures, as the legacy of all capital investments has been carefully studied) will only represent USD 630 million. (The yearly amount will represent less than 1% of the annual public investments for infrastructures in the Rhone-Alpes Region).

"So, all levels of government have confirmed that they will not need to increase taxes to cover those investments.

"All guarantees have been provided to the IOC. Regarding the OCOG budget, it mainly concerns the covering of any OCOG shortfall or the refund of advances to the IOC. Regarding the Non-OCOG budget, guarantees are related to the funding of all infrastructures and venues (in the last resort and where the primary contractor defaults)."

REUTERS: What political support will you have on-site in Durban?

BEIGBEDER: "Throughout this bid we have had support from the highest levels of government as can be seen by the President's role in the IOC Evaluation Commission Visit to Annecy in February and the active involvement of our Sports Minister, Chantal Jouanno, in all of our recent presentations.

"The President is a big believer in the IOC and its values. He wants the Games in Annecy so France can contribute once again to the Olympic movement and benefit winter sports worldwide.

"We expect to have high-level political support in Durban for the final days of the campaign though at this stage we are not in a position to confirm our line-up."

REUTERS: Given the difficulties you have had in the past raising money for the bid, how much of an impact do you think this, as well as the lower public support compared to your rivals, will have on the vote in Durban?

BEIGBEDER: "Our campaign budget has been more than sufficient and we have had fantastic support from global commercial brands including LVMH and Air France.

"Sport and Olympism are in the French DNA.

"Recent opinion polls have shown what we have known all along: that our bid is well supported with 91 percent of people nationally, 88 percent regionally and 67 percent locally.

"The support of the public has energised us throughout this campaign and will be driving us on to the finish line in Durban.

"We care deeply about Olympism which is why we are so determined to convince the IOC that we would be the best possible partners for them to help benefit winter sports all over the world.

"I will be doing everything I can alongside our team of champions including Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Drut and Pernilla Wiberg to make our dream - of authentic Games in the heart of the mountains, with the athletes and for the future - a reality."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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