Spain officially rules out 2030 Winter Games bid in Catalonia and Aragon

Disagreement over competition sites frustrates Catalan government's hopes

A ski slope in the Catalan Pyrenees (by Albert Lijarcio)
A ski slope in the Catalan Pyrenees (by Albert Lijarcio) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 20, 2022 12:56 PM

The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and the Spanish government have ruled out a 2030 Winter Olympics bid in the Pyrenees of Catalonia and its neighboring region, Aragon.

The lack of consensus between the COE and Catalan and Aragonese authorities over the distribution of competitions has frustrated the project.

The COE's president, Alejandro Blanco, has called a press conference for Tuesday at 7 pm in order to announce the decision.

Catalonia to prepare a solo candidacy

Yet, while it is expected the announcement on Tuesday is clear against pursuing an Olympic bid, on Monday evening Catalonia's presidency minister, Laura Vilagrà, still showed some hope.

Talking to journalists, she said that she had met with Blanco a few hours earlier, and had been told that the bid is "almost ruled out."

Yet, she responded that Catalonia is preparing a solo candidacy, aiming that COE submits it to IOC.

"The Spanish Olympic Committee has expressed readiness to do it," she said, blaming Aragon for the failed joint bid. Indeed, Vilagrà called the Aragonese president, Javier Lambán, "irresponsible."

Catalonia had "informal" talks with the COE about hosting the games only in the Catalan Pyrenees, presidency minister Laura Vilagrà said last Wednesday, adding that possibly bidding to hold them four years later, in 2034, had not been ruled out either.

Yet, despite the efforts made in Barcelona, the event will not be held on the Pyrenean slopes in eight years' time for the first time ever because the COE remained unconvinced.

However, Blanco's team is considering revamping the project in order to bid for 2034, either only in Catalonia or also with Aragon.

However, the civil society group "Stop JJOO" (Stop Olympic Games) has already announced they will fight against any bid to host the 2030, 2034, or 2038 Olympic Games. 

"We won," they shared on social media before calling for answers to the "questions" regarding the amount of taxpayers' money "thrown into the bin" as they have been used to push forward the bid

A binding referendum on the bid in six Catalan counties where competitions were expected to take place had been set for July 24, a day before the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Yet, the Catalan government postponed the vote on May 27 as no agreement had been reached.

COE and Catalonia blame Aragon

After much deliberation over where each sports event should take place, on March 28 the COE announced a deal between Catalonia and Aragon.

The Catalan executive then confirmed its support for the agreement, but Aragon failed to do so. The day after the COE announcement, the president of Aragon, Socialist Javier Lambán, openly rejected it and said he would counter with a "fair and more balanced" proposal. 

Marta Vilalta, the spokesperson for the government's senior pro-independence coalition partner Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) called "blackmail" what the Aragon president did.

"If everyone has ended up giving in to the blackmail of a character such as the Aragon region president, then they will have to explain it well. Because what we do is explain what we did in Catalonia, Vilalta said.

However, the Barcelona deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, praised the negotiations led by Alejandro Blanco.

"[COE's president has tried to reach a deal] amid a very difficult political context. It is obviously not easy to push the two main administrations to agree on a bid," he said in a press conference.

On May 25, Alejandro Blanco blamed Aragon for having broken the consensus originally reached with Barcelona.

Blanco, who heads the organization that has to formally submit an Olympic bid, confirmed that his cabinet rejected a deal on where each event would take place after his own representatives had greenlighted it

"We cannot hold six meetings and then, when a deal is done, say that it is all useless," he said, explaining that the agreement would have seen 54 events take place in Aragon and 42 in Catalonia.

During the spring, several alternative proposals were discussed but none were agreed on and the project met a dead end.

Local authorities 'lost opportunity'

Local authorities have considered the news a "lost opportunity" and have been critical of the government's handling of the bid. 

"We can look up those to blame, ask ourselves which Aragonès has been the one to reproach, the Catalan or the neighboring region, but more than look up for those to condemn, we have to consider what did we not do right from the start," Joaquim Colomer, county's council president. 

He played with the surname of the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, and the name of those residing in the Aragon region, Aragonese. 

On a similar note, Josep Lara, president of the Berguedà county's council, places the disagreement between both governments as one of the reasons for the COE to withdraw the candidacy.