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France makes bid to host 2030 Winter Olympics

Proponents say they are aiming for a ‘simple and sustainable’ event, but critics have called the plans ‘an aberration’

A view of a flag with the Olympic rings against a snowy backdrop

France’s Winter Olympics would be “sustainable and economical”, proponents have said, but critics disagree Pic: Kholywood / Shutterstock

France has officially put itself forward as a candidate to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, despite critics saying it would be an ‘economic, social and environmental aberration’.

The regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur this week put forward their bid.

‘Simple’ and sustainable

At a press conference this week, President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (ARA) region, Laurent Wauquiez, and the President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) region, Renaud Muselier, said that their Games would be ‘simple’.

This means that they would aim for disruption to be minimal, with an estimated 95% of events using already-existing sites. However a €1.5 billion budget has already been announced.

French Olympic Committee member David Lappartient said: “We believe that the 2030 Winter Olympics can be to the Winter Olympics what Paris 2024 will be to the Summer Olympics. A complete reform, in a changing world, with sustainable, economical games.”

“We only started five months ago but have done a huge amount of work together,” said Mr Wauquiez. “There is a real desire to bring the Olympics back to our mountains after 30 years.”

Ex-biathlon star Martin Fourcade has offered his support to the bid, and said that modern Games should no longer build huge stadiums that would lay unused afterwards. He said: “We are in a changing world, and the Games are part of this. Tomorrow’s Games cannot be like those of yesterday. We cannot build white elephants as in the past.”

France has hosted the Winter Olympics three times: in Chamonix in 1924, in Grenoble in 1968, and in Albertville in 1992.

Identified sites

Four sites in PACA have been identified as event venues, although an ice rink would have to be built in Nice to help the city host ice hockey, curling, short-track, and figure skating. 

The ski resort of Isola 2000 (Alpes-Maritimes) would host ski-cross and snowboard, while Briançon (Hautes-Alpes) would host ski and snow half-pipe fixtures. Other events would be held in Montgenèvre (PACA).

In ARA, the Méribel-Courchevel (Savoie) area has been identified as a site for the downhill events, as it already hosted the Alpine skiing world championships in 2022. Similarly, the Albertville Olympic ski jump in Courchevel would be reused, with bobsleigh and skeleton events at La Plagne. 

Val d'Isère (Savoie) would host the men's and women's slalom, and La Clusaz in Haute-Savoie would be used for cross-country skiing, alongside Le Grand-Bornand for biathlon.

Decision pending

The decision on which candidates will move forward to the next round of discussion will be made in almost three weeks’ time, when the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Executive Board will meet in Paris from November 28 to December 1.

France faces competition from two other principal contenders: Switzerland and Sweden. 

Mr Wauqieuz said: “We know there are big competitors. We also know that we'll be following up from the Paris Olympics. There is a lot of momentum.”

Mr Muselier said: “We are very well placed to win. Our assets are our ski areas. We have the support of our elected representatives and the President of the Republic.”

He dismissed the risk of poor snow conditions. "We have carried out studies showing that we will have snow until 2050,” he said.

Critics: ‘An aberration’

Despite the promises for a sustainable Games, an anti-Winter Games group has condemned the plans as an ‘economic, social and environmental aberration’. 

The No JO’ group has launched an online petition against the regions’ bids, and - at the time of writing - has gathered more than 2,500 signatures. The group says that the economic, social, and environmental cost of hosting would be too high to bear.

Its slogan is: “15 days of fun, 15 years of debt.”

The group has said: "The Olympic Games have never been profitable. Much of the infrastructure will not be used [afterwards], because of its specificity, and the foreseeable evolution of climate conditions.

“To maintain the attractiveness of the mountains, we need to protect them from the encroachment of concrete. We must ensure their longevity and promote their many healthy uses (agriculture, rewilding, crafts [and] sustainable construction,” it said.

It is calling for a national referendum on the issue.

Final decision expected next year

The final decision on the host nation will be made at an IOC session in 2024. This may be in Paris in July, if France is still in the running. If it is not, the decision will be made elsewhere.

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