By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

March 23 - Annecy officials today released more details of their $21 million (£14 million) bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the concept of which they claimed is "Games in the Mountains".

They are proposing a two-cluster Games containing a mixture of historical venues and innovative new and temporary structures which will cost $385 million (£257 million) for venue construction and improvement upgrades while a further $2.137 billion (£1.426 billion) is budgeted for transport infrastructure plans.

The Annecy cluster plans to bring together the vista of Lake Annecy and the Alps with the charm of Annecy's beautiful old town and will be home to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the medal presentations and all the skating events.

The biathlon and Nordic skiing will be held at La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand, long-standing hosts to such events, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session would be held in Annecy’s new Convention Centre, which is due to be completed by 2014.

The Olympic Family would also be accommodated in Annecy.

The other major cluster would be centred around Mont-Blanc, host to the first Olympic Winter Games at Chamonix in 1924, at the foot of the highest mountain in Europe.

Here will be hosted curling, ice hockey, freestyle skiing, Alpine skiing and snowboarding.

It includes ski resorts Chamonix, Flaine, Les Houches, Megève, Morzine and Saint-Gervais.

Bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions would be held on the La Plagne trail, already an Olympic venue in 1992 when Albertville hosted the Games.

The infrastructure was updated in 2008, in line with International Federation standards.

There are planned to be a total of 13 venues - four would be built if Annecy is awarded the Games while two others are already planned with six requiring a permanent upgrade.

Curling is the only venue that already exists and would require no work.

The two planned Olympic Villages in Annecy and Mont-Blanc are 50 minutes apart with 2,500 beds in the former and 2,300 in the latter.

The extensive transport infrastructure upgrade includes a fully duplicated Annecy-Saint-Gervais rail line will be able to carry 12,000 passengers per hour between the two clusters.

The bid book said; "This project is, along with the parallel motorway and road system, the backbone of the Games transport system."

There is also a planned upgrade of the Chambéry-Annecy-Geneva line, including the partial doubling-up of the Aix-les-Bains-Annecy line, which Annecy claims will ensure considerable time-savings and greater capacity.

There are also plans for a a prospective express cross-border rail link with Switzerland, which provides for the opening of a network connecting the Geneva Metropolitan Area with the Annecy and Mont-Blanc clusters in 2016.

The book said: "This will enable smooth, high-frequency connections between the Olympic perimeter and a population of one million."

The bid book claims that, unlike Vancouver 2010, the event would not be affected by lack of snow.

It said: "The local climactic conditions are highly conducive to the success of the Olympic Winter Games, giving athletes the best possible conditions throughout the sporting competitions at those dates.

"The meteorological trends over the last decade show that, during the proposed period, the mountain Olympic venues enjoy substantial natural snow cover and optimal snow quality."

According to a survey contained in the bid book, 88 per cent of French people are behind the bid, although this figure drops to 81 per cent in Annecy.

The bid is to be funded by $13.5 million (£9 million) from public sources, with the balance to be provided by sponsors, while the operating budget if it is successful is $1.13 billion (£754 million).

Annecy are considered to be the outsiders in a race that also involves Munich and Pyeongchang.

The proposed dates for the Games are the same for all three bids for 2018, February 9 to 25.

The IOC will now study the bids and announce a short-list at the end of June, although all three are expected to progress.

The IOC is due to announce the host city at its Session in Durban on July 6, 2011.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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