Winter Olympic Games

Aragonese president confirms he will not attend meeting to defend Olympic bid

Key moments for the Pyrenees' Olympic bid after the Aragonese government's change of heart

4 min
The President of Aragon, Javier Lambán

BarcelonaIt was supposed to be the day of the joint photograph to officialise the bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees, but the meeting scheduled for April 1 in Madrid will be held without Aragonese president Javier Lambán, who refused to sign the agreement that the delegates of his government accepted a few days ago. The Catalan government is planning to send Home Affairs minister Laura Vilagrà to the meeting tomorrow in Madrid with the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, while Catalan president Pere Aragonès has asked Lambán to keep his word and not break an agreement that "has taken months to seal", according to sources in the technical commission. The government of the Generalitat will take advantage of tomorrow's meeting in Madrid to ask Blanco where the candidacy could go if Lambán stays out.

May Peus, president of the Spanish Winter Sports Federation, who was present at last week's meeting – in which the proposal for the distribution of venues was finally agreed upon – admitted in statements to Cadena SER: "I am disconcerted, since an agreement had been reached with which all parties were satisfied". Lambán accused the delegates of the Catalan government of leaving the table during the meeting on Tuesday, March 22, but on Friday, March 25, both ERC and JxCat ended up validating the proposal for the distribution of venues proposed a few days earlier, which the Aragonese considered valid. "Now we will not shift from this proposal," the Generalitat says. President Pere Aragonès has made it clear that "it is a proposal that will allow everyone to have a leading role", and reiterates that Catalonia does not intend to modify the proposal of venues. This Olympic project was born in Catalonia in 2010, but once it was communicated to the Spanish Olympic Committee, Madrid asked events in Aragon be included. And, although initially all were good words from Javier Lambán, the situation has become tense once the Aragonese demanded "a balanced proposal, shared evenly between Catalonia and Aragon". The Generalitat accuses Lambán of blowing up the project only for his electoral interests: he will profit from projecting an image of opposition to Catalunya.

The proposed venues for the 2030 Winter Olympic Games

This week Lambán surprised everyone by refusing to sign the letter the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, sent on Monday to the governments of Catalonia and Aragon, and to the central government, explaining the proposed distribution of venues for the event. In fact, Lambán has accused the COE of favouring Catalonia. He says that he will not go to Friday's meeting and that he will make a new proposal for the distribution of venues, since this "is not balanced" if we analyze "the sporting importance" of the sports, but "clearly favours Catalonia". The COE document proposes that the most prestigious alpine skiing events be held in the Catalan Pyrenees in La Molina-Masella, as well as snowboarding and acrobatic skiing in Baqueira Beret, and ski mountaineering in Boí Taüll. In addition, the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona and a second facility in the city, probably Barça's future Palau de Gel, would be the venue for ice hockey. In the Aragonese Pyrenees, biathlon and cross-country skiing would be held at the Candanchú ski resort, with Zaragoza as the venue for figure skating and speed skating on long and short track, while Jaca would host curling. The distribution of the ice sports was one of the points on which the Catalan and Aragonese delegations could not agree, since initially the idea was that all the ice sports would be on the same stage. Finally, it was accepted to divide it and Catalonia host only ice hockey, since this sport, according to IOC regulations, requires a sports hall with a bigger capacity than the ones in Zaragoza. Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi, on the other hand, is big enough. While COE sources admit that during the last few months the main obstacle was to get the political parties in the Catalan government to agree, once this stage has been overcome, they have come up against a bigger problem: the position of the Aragonese government, who have decided to reject the agreement that they considered valid a week ago, partly because it was leaked to the press.

The president of Aragon also demanded on Monday to know where the opening and closing ceremonies would be held, as well as the official name of the project. In the meetings of the technical commission, there had been talk of postponing the decision on the official name until the very end, as this is also a complicated point. The International Olympic Committee is interested in the Barcelona brand, to connect a possible 2030 event with the memory of the 1992 Games, but Lambán says that, if the name of Barcelona or Catalonia appears, the name of Zaragoza or Aragón must also appear. "In Barcelona they talk about the Barcelona-Pyrenees candidacy," complained Lambán, who wants three valleys of the Aragonese Pyrenees, Formigal, Benasque and Candanchú to host events. The current plan only includes Candanchú. Today, Lambán has complained stating that Aragón has been ruled out to host events such as the snowboard or alpine skiing without any technical report advising against it.

In recent days there have been calls between all parties, but the central government of Pedro Sánchez has not pressed Lambán, because he does not want to further strain the relationship with one of the few regional presidents from the Socialist Party.