Sion have requested permission for signing a limited guarantee ©Sion 2026

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) insist that they have not set a new bidding precedent by permitting Sion to offer only a limited guarantee as part of their bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It follows the publishing of a letter sent by the IOC executive director for the Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi, by La Nordwestschweiz and other local media, in which the organisation granted permission for a limited guarantee to be proposed by the Swiss bid.

Sion 2026 bid chairman Jean-Philippe Rochat described this as a real "novelty", reducing one of the primary concerns invariably raised by local populations and citizens when bids are launched.

Dubi has, however, now made clear that they will only approve the permitted proposal if they are satisfied that it will be sufficient to cover any deficits.

"We will not prevent anyone bidding with a limited guarantee," the Swiss official told insidethegames during the Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly in Prague.

"Our guarantee does not say 'unlimited' but it has to cover any deficit - and that’s what I wrote back.

"So it is very likely that Sion 2026 will, in the next stage, when they provide the information formally to us, come up with a guarantee of so many millions.

"The role of the IOC is then to evaluate, from a risk and opportunity standpoint, the proposal from Sion 2026 or any other bid, and then to evaluate whether a limited guarantee is risky or enough.

"In any case, the signatories of the Host City Contract have to bear the responsibility at the end of the Games once the Organising Committee is folding up."

Christophe Dubi denied that they have set a precedent through a limited guarantee ©Getty Images
Christophe Dubi denied that they have set a precedent through a limited guarantee ©Getty Images

Dubi therefore disputes that this represents a change with the past.

He claimed that Chicago also signed-up to a limited guarantee during their unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Games in 2009.

According to Swiss media including 24heures, the Sion bid plan to propose a limited guarantee of CHF 995 million (£760 million/$955 million/€856 million), the same amount allocated by the Swiss Government towards the Games, although this is still subject to final approval.

"It is not a situation created for 2026," Dubi added.

"What we are saying that is that we have reviewed all our guarantees and we have more flexibility, including for the signatories of the Host City Contract. 

"The wording of our guarantee is the same as for previous bids, but it is the choice of the candidate city to come up with a solution where they portray a solution where they feel comfortable, and the IOC will then assess.

"It has become more public than in the past, but I don’t think it is a major policy change. 

"But it is also, I think, showing that Agenda 2020 allows for more flexibility."

The IOC cannot afford to risk losing money, Dubi added, because they have committed to financing Games organisations, including International Federations and National Olympic Committees, while also keeping a "tranche" of the profit for themselves.

"It’s not that we have this luxury, because the money is committed for the functioning of the Olympic Movement and the development of sport, and for the development of the various regions," he said.

Sion's bid is still likely to face a referendum, which will decide whether it will go forward to the next stage.

Several venues would be used in the city of Sion, located in the canton of Valais, but a total of five cantons of Switzerland feature in the proposed plans.

It is not yet known whether referendums would be held in each.

The IOC are in the process of introducing reforms to the bidding process in order to discourage a growing sense of apathy which is especially prevalent in Europe.

Increased "flexibility" and a less formal process is part of it, with a consultation phase set to continue for the next 11 months.

Referendums have ended several European attempts in recent years.

Innsbruck in Austria became the latest city to suffer such a defeat last month, killing their bid for the 2026 event.

It is hard to see where else in Europe will bid for 2026, with rumoured Norwegian and Swedish attempts considered unlikely.

Salt Lake City, Calgary and Sapporo are all possible contenders from farther afield.