France is on track to host a pair of Olympic Games within the space of six years after its proposed bid focusing on the Alps region was invited to targeted dialogue by the International Olympic Committee with the goal of being officially awarded the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games next summer — days before Paris hosts the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games.
France was preferred to bids from Sweden and Switzerland — which has been invited to privileged dialogue with an eye toward eventually hosting the 2038 Games. Wednesday’s announcement by Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss would give France the inside track to hosting the Winter Games for the fourth time and first since Albertville in 1992.
The French bid spreads across four hubs around the Alps near previous Winter Games hosts Chamonix (1924), Grenoble (1968) and Albertville (1992). A French bid uniting the Alps and the French Riviera resort Nice as host for indoor winter sports came together only in the past few months and was the project of international promotion from its national Olympic committee leader David Lappartient, the president of cycling’s governing body.
The French bid was rumored by Olympic insiders to have gained the edge in recent weeks in part because of Lappartient’s strong connections throughout the international sports community, especially as the Olympic movement spends even more time in Paris. Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi admitted as much on Wednesday: “All the experience from Paris 2024 and to use it for the next step to the Winter Games is a big advantage comparing to the other competitors.”
Perhaps the most notable reveal by the IOC on Wednesday was while it was presumed France cannot be awarded the Games at a Session it is also hosting under the rules of the Olympic Charter, officials said Wednesday the 2030 bid should lead to a double award at the IOC Session in July prior to the 2024 Paris Games, with Salt Lake City being invited into targeted dialogue for the 2034 Games.
Under the rules of targeted dialogue, no other city, region or National Olympic Committee can apply to host that edition until the Executive Board has decided whether there should be an election. At the end of a targeted dialogue, the Executive Board can put forward one or more Preferred Hosts for election by the IOC Session.
How the 2030 Race Developed
The race for 2030 started with three main contenders in Salt Lake City, Vancouver and Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo was seen as the early favorite with Olympic observers believing the IOC would reward Japan as soon as possible after Tokyo held the pandemic-delayed Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021 without fans, which contributed to explosive budget overruns. But Sapporo’s candidacy was wounded by a massive corruption and bid-rigging investigation stemming from the Tokyo Games as officials from Sapporo and the Japanese Olympic Committee first paused their candidacy and eventually withdrew its bid because of a lack of public support.
Vancouver’s bid was unique, being the first Indigenous-led bid process and with nearly all of its venues from the 2010 Games still in operation. But with budget questions came needed provincial guarantees for the bid to be viable and when British Columbia officials said in October 2022 that it would not provide support, the local bid officials continued its work but were not seen as a viable candidate much longer.
With the Summer Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles, the IOC was wary of having the U.S. host back-to-back Games because of the overlap that would come in domestic marketing cycles for each U.S.-based Games. On its part, Salt Lake bid officials said they would be willing to step in for 2030 if there is no other viable alternative while repeatedly stating a preference for 2034, the Games of which it will have targeted dialogue.
Keeping that in mind, the IOC began a not-too-subtle recruiting effort to find other countries that would be interested in bidding, announcing in December 2022 it would postpone choosing a 2030 Winter Games host. After the delay, three possibilities developed out of Europe — first out of Sweden, followed by Switzerland and then France.
Swiss Surprise, Swedish Dismay
Switzerland’s bid stood out in its philosophy as being held in the entire country instead of one region — Stoss said Wednesday one issue the Future Host Commission would have with the plan is it needs to be more concentrated.
A September survey found 55 percent of Swiss residents supported the idea, a reversal of five years ago when a potential 2026 bid was stopped after a funding proposal was defeated. Plans included the Opening Ceremony in Lausanne, where the IOC is headquartered, with a Closing Ceremony in Bern and events in St. Moritz, which hosted the Games in 1928 and 1948. There is no speed skating venue, so that could be staged in a nearby country.
During the Privileged Dialogue, the IOC will not engage in discussions with other potential hosts for the 2038 Games. The Privileged Dialogue will last to the end of 2027 but could end earlier if the project is ready.
“The first priority will be in 2038,” Stoss said. “But if they need more time, they will get more time, maybe for the edition of 2042.”
Sweden’s bid centered around Stockholm but included Falun, Åre and Östersund plus Södertälje and Solna. To avoid building a new venue, plans were to stage bobsled, luge and skeleton in Sigulda, Latvia. Sweden, long a winter sports powerhouse, has never hosted a Winter Games. It was the ninth Winter Olympic bid for the country that hosted the Summer Olympics in 1912 and the IOC said Wednesday it “presented an impressive vision to stage the most sustainable Games in history, but did not have all the elements required to be taken further at this stage.”
“I am incredibly disappointed,” Swedish bid leader Hans von Uthmann said in a statement. “We had a strong concept to stage the most sustainable games of all time, but are now not getting the chance to showcase that vision to the world.”