Geneva wants Winter Olympics

June 16, 2008 9:09:51 AM PDT
From Euro 2008 to Winter Olympics 2018? Within hours of Geneva completing its soccer hosting duties, city leaders said Monday they want a further taste of staging an international sports event: the Winter Olympics.

"We think we have the legitimacy and the image of a city capable of organizing that kind of event like the Winter Olympics," said Mark Muller, the Geneva state politician who led its Euro 2008 management team.

The intention to explore holding the 2018 Winter Games in the Lake Geneva region was announced last December.

"The motto for our bid is, 'Why Not?"' Muller said. "We are hoping that the experience of hosting three matches in the Euro will convince the people of Geneva that it is possible."

Geneva is the first of the eight Euro 2008 host cities to complete its schedule, and has won praise for its Fan Zone, which attracted 335,000 people in nine days to free telecasts of matches on a giant screen. Officials hope the experience has won over local voters who will be asked in January if they want to support a bid, which would be 75 percent funded by private investors.

"We have set up working groups and a committee to look for the financial support we need," said Michael Kleiner, the city's Euro 2008 projects leader who will now transfer his efforts to the Olympic candidacy.

Switzerland has not staged a Winter Olympics since the 1948 Games in St. Moritz, despite the worldwide reputation of its ski resorts. The city of Sion has bid three times, and finished second in voting behind Turin, Italy, to host the 2006 Games.

Like Sion, the Lake Geneva bid would require the alpine ski events to be raced at Crans-Montana, a two-hour drive from the city of Geneva. The resorts of Verbier and Vernayaz would also expect to be included.

A bid would need to win backing from the Swiss Olympic Committee, which has been skeptical about Switzerland's ability to stage the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to vote in 2011 on awarding the 2018 Winter Games.