PREVIOUSLY lauded as an event that could put Slovakia on the map, the Olympic Games in Poland are now highly unlikely as voters in Krakow rejected plans to bid for the 2022 Winter Games, which would have seen Slovakia co-host skiing events.

In a May 25 public referendum, 69.72 percent of Krakowians voted against hosting the games.

The Krakow referendum is valid as the turnout reached 35.96 percent, surpassing the 30-percent quorum, the TASR newswire reported. Representatives of Krakow and the Slovak Olympic Committee are scheduled to meet on May 30, a day after The Slovak Spectator went to print, to make the final decision over the bid.

Slovak Olympic Committee (SOV) President František Chmelár told the press that in theory the Polish parliament will decide on the issue, but he cast doubts over the possibility of MPs ignoring the opinion of Krakow residents.

“The present voice of Krakow citizens against Olympic candidacy resonated so strongly that it can’t be questioned,” Chmelár said in SOV’s press release. “A similar chance will not come around again for a long time.”

This comes as bad news for Slovakia and the High Tatras region since it has potential to host such games and attract the world’s attention, according to Lenka Maťašovská, the head of regional destination management organisation, OOCR Región Vysoké Tatry, the Sme daily reported.

While head of the National Park Nízke Tatry Administration Ľuboš Čillag declined to comment, environmentalist Mikuláš Huba of Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) praised the possible end of Krakow’s candidacy because the most controversial part of the games would be held in the Slovak national park, according to Sme.

It will take time to analyse the reasons behind people’s decision, but the Preparatory Committee for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Krakow most likely suffers from mistakes in communication with the public, Chmelár said, as quoted by TASR.

Chmelár pointed out that some cities bidding to host the games started cancelling their applications after the latest Winter Olympic Games took place on February 7-23, 2014 in Sochi.

Despite the fact that they were successful and well organised, huge expenses scared off potential future bidders, Chmelár said, adding that it could endanger the whole existence of the Olympic Games.

“It is impossible to break through the opinion of the population,” Chmelár said, as quoted by TASR, adding that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is preparing measures to make sure the Olympic Games continue.

Missing referendum in Slovakia

The Slovak government approved the idea of the joint candidacy without a referendum and without a study to assess the potential environmental impacts, according to Via Iuris, a legal ethics and civil rights watchdog. Therefore, together with the Institute for Environmental Protection, it filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office and the European Commission, which should look into whether Slovakia’s approach was in compliance with EU directives, the SITA newswire reported.
However, investments will come to the Tatras region with or without the Olympic Games, according to Juraj Blanár, the head of Slovak Preparation Committee and Žilina Mayor of Smer, Sme reported.
Liptovský Mikuláš Mayor Alexander Slafkovský of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) agrees, adding that it is possible that most of the planned investments will come to fruition.
“Criticisms by environmentalists were exaggerated, everything they criticised related to the Olympic Games will be there in the next five or six years anyway,” Slafkovský told Sme.

How much it would cost

Should the plan to jointly host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games with Poland become a reality, it would cost Slovakia €177 million, according to a document cleared by the government on February 26, according to the SITA newswire.
The plan, authored by the Slovak Education Ministry, calls for the games to be hosted in Krakow, Poland, with Jasná in Slovakia’s Low Tatras handling the alpine ski disciplines. The bill would be covered by the state, with €169 million making up investment costs and the remaining €8 million going toward operating the competitions. The highest amount would go into transport infrastructure.
The Education Ministry claims that part of the costs would be covered through commercial revenues, TASR reported.