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Having lost 2006 bid, Poprad-Tatry eyes 2010 Winter Games

Slovakia's bid to host the 2006 Winter Olympics ended in Seoul on June 19 when the Italian city of Turin was awarded the games. The Slovak committee is now weighing the merits of re-applying for the next Winter Games, in 2010.
"The whole [Slovak Olympic] committee was really surprised and disappointed," said Július Dubovský, the Slovak government's official representative for the country's 2006 candidacy, in an interview with The Slovak Spectator on June 23. "Our presentation drew very favourable reactions from the members of the International Olympic Committee [IOC], and we felt that it had put us on an equal level with the other [six] candidates," he said.


The ski jump at Štrbské Pleso in the High Tatras will not see Olympic competitors in 2006 after all.
photo: TASR

Slovakia's bid to host the 2006 Winter Olympics ended in Seoul on June 19 when the Italian city of Turin was awarded the games. The Slovak committee is now weighing the merits of re-applying for the next Winter Games, in 2010.

"The whole [Slovak Olympic] committee was really surprised and disappointed," said Július Dubovský, the Slovak government's official representative for the country's 2006 candidacy, in an interview with The Slovak Spectator on June 23. "Our presentation drew very favourable reactions from the members of the International Olympic Committee [IOC], and we felt that it had put us on an equal level with the other [six] candidates," he said.

Turin defeated the Swiss city of Sion, the other finalist, by 53 votes to 36. International press reports from Seoul suggested that the IOC had chosen Turin over Sion, the better-prepared site, in revenge for the actions of the Swiss Marc Hodler, who last December blew the whistle on IOC corruption in awarding the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

Slovakia, whose candidacy was known as 'Poprad Tatry,' after a city and popular mountain resort in the north of the country, tied for third place with Helsinki with four votes each. Klagenfurt, Germany finished fifth and Zakopane, Poland sixth.

Another kick at the can

Dubovský said despite the Slovak committee's disappointment, Poprad-Tatry might well re-apply for the 2010 Winter Olympics. "People from the IOC came to us after the [June 19] vote and gave us encouragement to continue in our efforts to get an Olympic games," Dubovský reported. "If the city of Poprad agrees, the National Olympic Committee must then support the idea, and the government must issue a guarantee for the project. If all of this happens, then we could be applying for the 2010 Winter Games by January 2000."

At press time on June 24, the Poprad City Council was about to meet to discuss another candidacy. Poprad Mayor Štefan Kubík told the daily paper Sme on June 22 that "It's almost certain that a proposal for the city to continue in its candidacy will go through, either at this meeting or the one next month."

Not everyone is sure that the country should continue in its bid for a Winter olympics, however. Mária Ďurišinová, a member of the Slovak National Olympic Committee and director of the Education Ministry's Youth Sport Section, said that no European country was likely to be awarded the 2010 games now that Turin had captured the 2006 nomination.

"It is an almost unwritten law that the Games never take place on the same continent twice in a row, she said. "It's my personal opinion that we should not apply again at the moment."

Much of the opposition to re-applying for the 2010 Games comes from those who feel the money devoted to the project would be wasted, thrown helve after hatchet on a bid which has little chance of success. Defenders of the bid, on the other hand, say that the financial outlay produces handsome public relations dividends, with the possibility of a windfall if the bid is successful.

Dubovský said that the Poprad-Tatry candidacy, launched under the former Mečiar government in 1996, had received 40 million Slovak crowns ($900,000) in funding from the previous cabinet and another 40 million from the current government. Including marketing costs and "special projects," the 2006 bid had cost 120 million crowns ($2.7 million), Dubovský said, far below the projected 200 million.

This money, Dubovský continued, had bought Slovakia invaluable exposure. "Our committee visited over a hundred countries, while the name 'Slovakia' was mentioned on 156 television stations after the [June 19] announcement," he said. "Five top international daily newspapers wrote stories about us."

And had Slovakia won its bid, Dubovský concluded, the profits would have been enormous "for everyone from Dunajska Streda to Michalovce [two towns at the eastern and western poles of the country]. We had promises of over 500 million dollars in investment for the games from foreign sources if we had won... It is not possible to lose money staging an Olympics."

For environmentalists, however, the profits and investments generated by a successful bid would not make up for the damage inflicted on Slovakia's High Tatras National Park, the intended site of many Olympic events. Mikuláš Huba, director of the Slovak Society for Sustainable Living and a research scientist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, said that "It's hard to understand why they would try to organise this mass sport event in such a sensitive area. The scale of the mountains is too small to organise such an event without big negative results on the environment."

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