In five months, the deal was concluded. Five months of intense discussions and mobilization of services in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Paca) and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions, compromises but also well-understood interests. Tour de force: on November 7, the French Alps’ candidacy file for the organization of the 2030 Winter Olympic Games was submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), then defended two weeks later before the commission of future host of the body. Its promoters are now awaiting the first verdict from the IOC, whose executive board is meeting in Paris from this Wednesday, November 29.
With a good chance of success in a tough competition which also includes Switzerland and Sweden? “We are in a complicated match, but we are very well placed to win,” summarizes Renaud Muselier, the president of the Paca region, the first to have dreamed very strongly of “the Olympics at home”. His counterpart from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, wants to believe in the “collective dynamic” which supports an “environmentally respectful” candidacy.
“Thrifty and sober”
This is the major argument of the stakeholders in the French file. These Games, spread over four “poles” (Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Briançonnais and Nice), will be “economical and sober”, they swear. No budget has yet been decided, but the sum of 1.5 billion euros is still mentioned, and Laurent Wauquiez assured this at the end of the grand oral meeting with the IOC: “There are major partners of Paris 2024 who said they were ready to follow us. » The cost would be all the more limited as the Games will benefit from the facilities in place and maintained since Albertville in 1992. The construction of a single facility is thus scheduled: an ice rink in Nice.
“95% of the infrastructure is already there,” said Martin Fourcade, the former biathlon champion and member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, pushing behind the project during the presentation press conference. “Our support is not blind but committed,” he said. Everyone is aware that tomorrow’s Olympics cannot be the same as yesterday’s. We are facing a changing world, but this candidacy is part of that world. »
A speech which greatly irritates the “No JO” collective, formed to fight against any candidacy from the French mountains. “By 2050, all Alpine glaciers located below 3,400 m altitude will have disappeared. Glaciers are collapsing, rock slides are increasing, high mountain refuges are closing one after the other but we are told that we will always be able to ski and that we must continue to ski! », castigated these opponents in a press release on November 21.
The Winter Olympic Games, in short, would continue to promote a condemned model, the IOC itself revealing last October that, of the fifteen countries which have so far hosted the fortnight of the great white, only ten will have “the reliability necessary climate” to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games “by 2040”. So why not take off your skis now and move on?
Games as a transition tool
The question obviously brings Alexandre Maulin, the president of Domaines skiables de France, the professional chamber of French snowfield operators, off its hinges: “We must not be mistaken: the current model brings the territories to life and will still be valid tomorrow , at least until 2050 for small stations, and until the end of the century for large ones, he promises. So let’s stop the “ski bashing” and let’s not listen to all those who have decided that we must die: a project for 2030 is not crazy. »
The president of the French Ski Federation (FFS), Fabien Saguez, scales the same time scale: “French society needs to know today what will happen in fifty years. I live in the mountains, and I try to live my present well. I see nothing contradictory between the Games in just six years and respect for my environment, which I am the first to defend. On the contrary. The Games can support our transition by demonstrating what we know and can do to modify behavior and provide perspectives for change. Nothing to do with what was done in Sochi or Beijing. »
No more “above ground” Games, this is in fact the stated desire of the IOC. The subject is in fact increasingly sensitive, as demonstrated by the controversies over the preparation of the Swiss slopes of Zermatt-Cervinia for the opening of the Speed World Cup in mid-November, requiring the digging of the Théodule glacier. to bring snow. Under pressure, the International Ski Federation ended up promising an “action plan” by the end of 2024, in particular to adapt its calendar.
Accelerate the integration of disabled people
“We are certainly singled out and we have a duty to set an example,” comments Fabien Saguez. But we have to stop feeling guilty and take action. Showcasing our mountains through the Games, designed as a territorial project, goes beyond the sporting framework. We are lucky in France to also offer cultural diversity, heritage, and a gentle way of life, more peaceful than in stressed urban environments. »
It is this societal vocation that Marie-Amélie Le Fur, the president of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, who is very involved in the candidacy, is also keen to highlight: “It is no longer the territories that adapt to the Games but the opposite, and this paradigm shift is a welcome surprise that must be seized. Especially since France has the assets to do so. » The former athlete with nine Paralympic medals rejects the idea of a sudden end to sports competitions to preserve the mountains. “The Games are one of those events which can create two things: real popular fervor enabling nation-building, and that is no small thing, particularly for the younger generations; and then for disabled people, they can also be a vector for accelerating integration. »
And the manager points out the difficulties of accessibility to the mountains, the resorts having to catch up considerably on delicate issues, such as paths in the resorts or access to the snow front. “These are areas that affect daily life, and the Games can help in this area, as we are already measuring with Paris 2024,” observes Marie-Amélie Le Fur. But in Paris, awareness was a bit late, and doubtless questions of accessibility, for example, will only really improve after the event. So for 2030, the idea would be to maintain the dynamics of Paris 2024, to leverage the expertise acquired to work better on the very complex opening of natural spaces. » If France is chosen this weekend by the IOC, there will be no shortage of subjects to refine.
A crucial IOC meeting
In addition to the French Alps, the Swiss Alps and the city of Stockholm (Sweden) are also candidates for the organization of the 2030 Winter Olympics.
The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee is meeting in Paris from Wednesday November 29 until Friday December 1 to meet the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee and visit a site of the next Summer Games, but also to hear the recommendations of the commission for the future host of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games.
The commission may select one or more files to begin a period of “targeted dialogue” with the chosen candidates to clarify the contours of the applications.
The final choice will take place during a session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2024. The attribution of the 2034 Winter Olympics will take place at the same time and could go to the American city of Salt Lake City.