2030 Winter Games bid on the ropes

Spanish Olympic Committee may decline to to put forward a bid

3 min
Secretary of State José Manuel Franco, Alejandro Blanco (COE) and Councilor Laura Vilagrà during the meeting to sign the technical agreement.

BarcelonaMonths and months of negotiations and controversy are about to come to an end, and everything points to an acrimonious one at that. The 2030 Olympic Games bid is on the ropes and, as ARA has learnt, this week the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) could backtrack and announce that it is giving up on the bid. Several sources involved in the negotiations –both from Madrid and Catalonia– explain that the end is nigh. It could be announced at a meeting in Barcelona between representatives of the Generalitat and the COE, which have continued to show their understanding despite their disagreements with Aragon. The tension with the Aragonese government is, in fact, the reason behind the failure of the 2030 bid. Although the COE was willing to work with Catalonia alone, the Spanish government has always been reluctant towards this possibility: it is not interested in a political battle between regions that could be perceived to favour the Generalitat. Lambán himself has already let it slip on some occasions and it is a ground for criticism from the right with little under a year to go before the general elections, and Andalusian, local and regional elections coming up in between.

Sources in the Spanish executive predict that the project "will die" despite the efforts of COE president Alejandro Blanco to save it. "Every passing day the image given to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is worse and the idea that there are other technically very solid and more serious candidacies is reinforced", they emphasise. This is the case of Sapporo (Japan), Salt Lake City (United States) and Vancouver (Canada). For weeks now, Aragon has been working on the sidelines and Lambán has been openly criticising not only the candidacy but also the person who has to present it. The Aragonese president has even asked for Blanco's resignation, who is the main loser in this whole conflict.

At the end of May, the head of the COE strongly rejected the possibility of not presenting a candidacy: "We cannot lose the position we have before the IOC. Nor the prestige. We have sent a letter saying that we want to organise the Games and we cannot give them up". Only a few days later, however, he already opened the door to postponing the candidacy in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio. "If there is no decent project, we will run for the next Olympics," he said, thinking of the 2034 Games. COE sources insist that they will try to reach an agreement "until the end", but admit that the decision has to be taken immediately.

The postponement seems the most viable way out. Generalitat sources admit the difficulties in working out a candidacy while Aragon is fighting against it, although they insist that they have not yet been officially told that 2034 is being considered. There has been no official message, but there is an unofficial one. According to sources familiar with the situation of the Olympic project, the COE has already let the Catalan Government know that it will rule out the 2030 bid if it is only backed by the Generalitat. And, right now, only the Generalitat is backing it.

A complicated negotiation

That the negotiation would be complicated could be sensed in January, when Lambán stood Pere Aragonès up at the meeting planned in Balaguer, halfway between Barcelona and Zaragoza. At that time, the Generalitat criticised the Aragonese president's "irresponsibility", but no one left the table. Two months later, it seemed that the solution had been found with a technical agreement for the distribution of the events: ski jumps, skeleton or bobsleigh would be held outside the State; Aragon would hold the biathlon, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating and speed events; Catalonia would host the ski mountaineering, ice hockey, downhill, slalom, snowboarding and freestyle and alpine skiing. It didn't take long for Lambán to back out of the agreement, long enough to receive complaints from the Aragonese resorts that had been left out of the distribution.

Lately, Aragon has tried to split the men's and women's skiing events, but Catalonia is against it, alleging that an agreement had already been closed. Blanco himself has recalled that the meetings were recorded –because the two governments agreed to be recorded– and insinuated that the Aragonese side would not be very happy if the audios were made public. Be that as it may, it has not been possible to reach an agreement and it was only a few days ago that the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, visited Madrid to meet with Blanco, whom he asked to "fix" the problems with the candidacy.

Since nothing was definite and, despite the fact that part of the advertising campaign in favour of the Games had already started being broadcast, the Generalitat decided to postpone the two consultations scheduled for July. The Government insisted until now that the decision on whether or not to present the candidacy would depend on the citizens' will. It seems that, for the moment, it will depend on the lack of political understanding.