Lausanne picks and chooses as events clamour to be held in the ‘Olympic Capital’
Lausanne’s decision to bid to stage the winter Youth Olympic Games was a relatively unusual one, in that the city does not always have to seek out events. More usually, events organisers seek out the city because of its status as the ‘Olympic Capital,’ among other reasons, according to Marc Vuilleumier, Lausanne’s director of sports and one of seven elected city councilors.
The Youth Olympic bid faced a vote on September 19 by the so-called ‘parliament of sport,’ the 80 national sports federation members of Swiss Olympic to determine whether the national Olympic committee would proceed with the bid. The bid received unanimous approval to go forward and be presented to the International Olympic Committee by the deadline of November 28, having already been recommended by Swiss Olympic’s executive committee.
Asked why IOC members should vote for the winter Youth Olympics to held in Lausanne, Vuilleumier said: “The IOC should vote for Lausanne because the core of the Youth Olympic Games is sharing Olympic values with the sports youth of the world. There is nowhere better to do that than in the place that became the cradle of the Olympic Games 100 years ago [the IOC will select the host city in May 2015, exactly a century after Lausanne was selected by Pierre de Coubertin to become the IOC’s headquarters].
“The Youth Olympic Games are engrained in what Lausanne wants to do with sports, their social and cultural impact, and promoting the positive values of Olympism. That’s what sports events should bring to Lausanne.”
For this reason, and because Lausanne is a relatively small city of only about 130,000 inhabitants (310,000 in the greater Lausanne region), it has mainly sought to attract and stage mass participation events such as 2011’s World Gymnaestrada and the annual 20km of Lausanne (running event), the Lausanne Triathlon and the Lausanne Marathon.
The city also boasts elite events such as the annual Athletissima, the top-tier IAAF Diamond League athletics event, but such events are more usually staged on an ad hoc basis in response to approaches from commercial promoters or, more rarely, international federations.
One such event was a stage of basketball’s new FIBA 3x3 World Tour, held in late August and attracted to Lausanne by the opportunity to impress the IOC with the discipline’s credentials for inclusion in a future Olympic Games.
Vuilleumier also cited equestrianism’s Longines Global Champions Tour this year and next year’s Archery World Cup Final as examples of major events being hosted by the city, but admitted: “We’re in a phase where we’re more organising than bidding, turning down rather than inviting, events. If you look at the calendar, we have the 3x3 basketball. We’re flattered [other cities hosting events on the tour include Istanbul, Tokyo, Prague and Rio de Janeiro] but we know they come here to be seen by the IOC.
“We have a base of annual events, plus every year one or two completely new events that come only once. People come to us to organise events. We sometimes have to say no. We have to have a balance as a small city being asked to host events, because we have to take into consideration the impact of closing roads, for example.”
The city twice staged the Red Bull Crashed Ice event, a downhill urban skating event using an artificial piste that takes advantage of the city’s location on the side of a steep hill overlooking Lake Geneva. The event attracted 50,000 spectators, and, said Vuilleumier, “They would love to come every year or every other year, but we have to consider the impact.”
The benefits of hosting sports events include a SFr200-million ($216-million) economic impact in the canton of Vaud, of which Lausanne is the capital. Lausanne is seeking to increase these benefits by creating a so-called ‘Cluster,’ based at the city’s EPFL university, which would merge international sports research work with economic promotion, putting private companies in touch with sport, “creating synergies in a place where stakeholders can benefit from their presence in the same region.”
Switzerland’s federal system of 26 cantons, and the fact that most sports facilities are owned by individual cities, has meant that a complex arrangement has had to be thrashed out for financing the winter Youth Olympic Games, if the bid is successful. The city has proposed a games budget of SFr38 million, of which 85 to 90 per cent will come from public sources, derived from the city of Lausanne, the canton of Vaud and the Swiss confederation.
Lausanne 2020, which has been advised by TSE Consulting, the Lausanne-based sports management consultancy, proposed to Swiss Olympic a ‘three-cluster concept’, with Alpine skiing disciplines in the Alps and Nordic skiing in the nearby Jura region, all taking place within the boundaries of the canton of Vaud. The city itself would be the location for all ice sports, plus the Olympic Village and the cultural and education programme.
The inaugural edition of the winter Youth Olympic Games was held in Innsbruck, Austria last year and the second event will be hosted by Lillehammer in Norway in 2016.
Switzerland recently abandoned a proposed bid to host the 2022 winter Olympic Games in St Moritz and Davos, after the electorate in the canton of Grisons (Graubünden in German-speaking parts of the country) voted against the project in a referendum.
Switzerland has not hosted the winter Olympics since 1948 and subsequent bids, all centred on the canton of Valais (which borders Vaud), to host the games in 1976, 2002 and 2006 were unsuccessful. However, talks are once again being held in Valais, whose resorts include Verbier, Zermatt and Crans Montana, about hosting a future winter Olympic Games there, Vuilleumier said.
Asked whether a winter Youth Olympic Games could be a precursor to a bid by Lausanne and Vaud to host the winter Olympics, Vuilleumier said: “I don’t think so, for financial and infrastructure reasons. After the Grisons vote, I think the only place that could do it is Valais. But if a bid from Lausanne for the youth games can help Valais to bid for the winter Olympics, we would be very happy.”
Red Bull Crashed Ice