BERNE (Reuters) - Sion’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics was ratified by the Swiss Olympic committee on Tuesday.
The candidacy had been approved by Swiss Olympic’s executive board last month but still needed the backing of the country’s 86 sports federations, the so-called sport parliament, which it received at an assembly on Tuesday.
The federations also agreed to provide eight million Swiss francs ($7.93 million) from Swiss Olympic reserves to fund the first stage of the bid.
Sion, a town of some 33,000 people on the banks of the Rhone in a valley in the canton of Valais, lost out to Turin after bidding to host the 2006 edition of the Winter Games, which last took place in Switzerland in St Moritz in 1948.
Venues would be spread around Valais and the neighboring cantons of Fribourg, Berne and Vaud.
Olympic downhill gold medalist Didier Defago was among leading sportsman to back the bid.
“The Games would have a positive impact on a wide range of areas of our society but the focus will be on the revitalization of sport in our country, and in particular the upgrading of winter sports,” he said.
Swiss Olympic said the next step would be to ask for support from the Swiss government, which could insist on a referendum.
The bid is good news for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which has seen interest in hosting the summer and winter Olympics fall away in the last few years, with cities either scared off by the size and cost of the Games or pressured by local opposition.
Budapest pulled out of bidding for the 2024 summer Olympics last month, becoming the fourth city to do so ahead of the IOC vote in September, leaving just Los Angeles and Paris in the running.
Beijing and the nearby city of Zhangjiakou beat Kazakhstan’s Almaty for the right to host the 2022 winter Games after the other competitors dropped out, citing costs and other worries.
($1 = 1.0082 Swiss francs)
Editing by Clare Fallon