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June 21, 2022

Spain’s COE to scrap 2030 Winter Olympics bid

The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and the country’s government are set to end the proposed joint bid by the regions of Catalunya and Aragon to co-host the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

By Tariq Saleh

The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and the country’s government are set to end the proposed joint bid by the regions of Catalunya and Aragon to co-host the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

COE president Alejandro Blanco is expected to confirm the news at a press conference this evening (Tuesday) in Madrid after the Catalan and Aragon authorities failed to come to an agreement over the distribution of competitions.

Government officials have already reportedly been informed of the cancelation.  

In April, the COE said the planned joint bid had been approved. This was despite Aragon authorities being opposed to the idea as they had several issues in regards to the framework of the bid.

The approval came just a week after Javier Lamban, president of the local government of Aragon, rejected the technical plan that the COE had issued for the co-hosting of the 2030 Olympics reportedly due to reservations about the plan favoring Catalunya too heavily in terms of the event split.

Although the COE stated that the earlier plan had been discussed and agreed with all necessary bodies – including the Aragon government – the latter entity responded by saying the distribution of events “is not balanced” under the plan and that it will therefore not give approval.

Instead, Lamban had planned to put forward a more Aragon-centric proposal.

Ultimately, the disagreements and political infighting between all the parties have led to the proposed joint bid being scrapped despite it being more than three years in the making.

Catalonia reportedly requested that it launch a solo bid, but the idea was not backed by Blanco and the COE.

In any case, it appears the Spanish project has fallen well behind rivals from Sapporo (Japan), Salt Lake City (US), and Vancouver (Canada), with those bids featuring published plans, public engagement campaigns, and technical visits with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A lack of organization forced Spanish officials to cancel planned IOC visits twice and postpone a July 24 referendum that was arranged to measure public interest in the bid.

Spanish environmental activists have repeatedly raised concerns that staging the event could negatively impact the Pyrenees due to climate change.

Some reports have suggested that the COE could turn its focus to the 2034 Winter Olympics.

The battle for the 2030 games now appears to be a three-horse race between Japan, the US, and Canada.

The IOC revealed last month that it will select candidates for targeted dialogue at a December 7 executive board meeting.

The organization could elect the host city for 2030 at a session in Mumbai, India on May 30, 2023.

The 2026 edition will be held in Milan and Cortina in Italy.

Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis at GlobalData Sport, commented: “With Spain officially ruling out a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC will soon find itself in a tricky moral position. Given the cost of hosting an Olympics, many Western nations simply cannot countenance that sort of spending given the ongoing cost of living crisis and other domestic concerns.

“As public opinion moves away from hosting ‘mega-events’ due to the cost, as seen consistently in referenda on the issue over the past decade, any government authorizing that sort of spending has to provide a significant justification for doing so or risk a public backlash, as was evidenced in Brazil from 2014 to 2016.

“The IOC’s issue is that only questionable regimes who would be looking to 'sportswash' are likely to put their name forward to host these events moving forward given the lack of public criticism they would face for the vast spending involved, as seen with the likes of China and Russia in the recent past.

“While the IOC will point to using sport as a means of bringing about greater transparency in these countries, this clearly hasn’t worked in Russia or China so this claim will likely be challenged by human rights groups.” 

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