Pyrenees’ 2030 Winter Olympics bid referendum postponed

Vote was scheduled for July 24 but no candidacy deal has been reached so far

Baqueira Beret ski station (by Baqueira Beret)
Baqueira Beret ski station (by Baqueira Beret) / Cillian Shields, Guifré Jordan, and Lorcan Doherty

ACN | Barcelona

May 27, 2022 09:24 AM

The Catalan government has postponed the referendum on the 2030 Winter Olympics bid that was scheduled for July 24. According to government sources, they want to have a clear candidacy project before the residents in the Pyrenees can vote on whether they greenlight hosting the competition or not. 

At this moment, there is no expected date for the vote. The Catalan government is waiting for the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and Catalonia's neighboring region of Aragon to agree on the candidacy. 

Residents in the Catalan counties where the Games could take place were expected to vote. A government-funded survey on May 5 found that three out of four residents are in favor of holding the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Despite postponing the referendum, the Catalan government is willing to continue with the voting process. "Let’s have a final candidacy as if not the residents that have to vote would not have all the information to decide, we are keen to close a bid," Catalan presidency minister Laura Vilagrà said during a press conference on Friday morning. 

"We will reactivate the referendum decree once there is a deal and we know which competitions will be held in each place," she added.

Joint candidacy is crucial

One of the most important things to host the 2030 Winter Olympics is cooperation. "We have always planned to cooperate with other territories as we never expected to host some competitions," the Catalan presidency minister explained. 

"We are at the disposal of the Spanish Olympic Committee and open to collaborate with other territories and draft a technical proposal that makes sense," she added. 

"Catalonia wants the 2030 Winter Olympics and we do not want to give up on them. We are at a complete loss as to why anyone would deliberately boycott this good project in such an uncompromising position," Vilagrà said referring to Aragon.

Catalan political figures confronted on decision

After the news broke in the morning, several Catalan politicians agreed with the government in postponing the referendum. 

The Lleida’s regional authority president, Joan Talarn, considered it a "responsible" decision after the "irresponsible behavior" of Javier Lambán, Aragon’s president. Talarn considers the regional president to have  "blown up" the already agreed technical arrangements. 

It is an "honest" decision, the authority president explained, ahead of a pact that can "show off the Pyrenees to the world with the best Winter Olympic Games," he added. 

On the other hand, the far-left and anti-capitalist pro-independence party, CUP, urged the government to "abandon" the candidacy. 

On a similar note, anti-austerity En Comú Podem party parliamentary leader Jéssica Albiach, tweeted about the news wondering when will the government "realize that the future of the country does not depend on massive speculative projects," she rethorically asked in a tweet. 

"Once again, it proves that the bid does not have any future," she wrote. 

Among the people that understand the government's decision is Isidre Chia, the president of the Cerdanya county council. 

However, "the territory is surprised that the [government] did not consider us when deciding to postpone the referendum," he said. "They have their reasons which I consider valid, but this shows that we will give an impression of those who defend the Olympic Games of instability," he added.

Negotiations to continue

On Wednesday, the president of the COE, Alejandro Blanco, said negotiations with Catalonia and Aragon to bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics Games would continue.

"I will resume conversations with those who want to take part," Alejandro Blanco said during a press conference on Wednesday, almost two months on from Aragon rejecting the agreed deal over the distribution of events.

"We cannot lose face before the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We have sent a letter saying that we want to organize the Games," he added.

If they are not able to present a bid, Blanco said, "we will see what the next decision is."

Although there is no official deadline for a bid, Blanco explained, time is running out, since IOC president, Thomas Bach, will be in Spain on June 1. He is visiting a sports center helping to train refugee athletes near Madrid, but the 2030 bid is also expected to be on his agenda.

"Bach will ask a lot of things," Blanco said. "We are in a hurry with deadlines, although there are no exact dates."

"Our calendar is set in hosting the games in 2030, therefore the referendum will take place in Autumn, but as early as possible. The new scenario does not affect a potential candidacy as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make the decision in May 2023 on where the Games will be held", Vilagrà explained on Friday.

In a pair of radio interviews earlier on Wednesday, Blanco said that Aragon's refusal to accept what had been agreed has "damaged" the Spanish Olympic Committee's stance ahead of Bach's arrival. "The project's draft project will not be ready as I had hoped, but I will anyway talk to Bach to brief him about the current situation and to make clear we continue with the idea of hosting the Games," he said during an interview with Catalunya Ràdio.

The COE president highlighted the level of support for the Games, despite the reservations. "There was an event with 150 mayors in Val d'Aran to support the games. I had a similar meeting in Jaca. We had a parallel meeting with businessmen and unions and they all wanted to support the Games."

If, in the end, the Pyrenees doesn't win the bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, Blanco said he would not rule out another attempt in 2034.

Filling the Sink

Listen to the Filling the Sink podcast episode released on February 5 to learn more about the contentious 2030 Winter Olympics candidacy that has found opposition from within Catalonia as well.