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Slovakia clings to dream of hosting Olympics

The Slovak Spectator's Daniel Stoll had a question and answer session with Ján Smerek, the Chairman of Slovakia's 2006 Winter Olympics bid.
The Slovak Spectator: Where did your conviction arise, that Slovakia should organise a bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics?
Ján Smerek: "It is not just my passion, it comes from the people as well - from their minds, their hard work, their intentions, abilities and their traditional Slovak kindheartedness. These are our greatest assets. We have demonstrated more than once our ability to organize successfully the world's biggest sporting events in the Vysoké Tatry. It is our greatest chance to gain exposure for Slovakia, to prove that even a small and young country can put on a big show for the world."

The Slovak Spectator's Daniel Stoll had a question and answer session with Ján Smerek, the Chairman of Slovakia's 2006 Winter Olympics bid.


The Slovak Spectator: Where did your conviction arise, that Slovakia should organise a bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics?


Ján Smerek: "It is not just my passion, it comes from the people as well - from their minds, their hard work, their intentions, abilities and their traditional Slovak kindheartedness. These are our greatest assets. We have demonstrated more than once our ability to organize successfully the world's biggest sporting events in the Vysoké Tatry. It is our greatest chance to gain exposure for Slovakia, to prove that even a small and young country can put on a big show for the world."


TSS: What lessons did you take from the 2002 Winter Olympic bid in preparing for 2006?


JS: "Slovakia's candidature for the 2002 Winter Olympics was prepared quite modestly. In journalist jargon we could say that Slovakia was just "testing the waters". But when it came to our 2006 candidature, we addressed a wide range of people and business enterprises. Our cooperation with the government of the Slovak Republic has been very strong and supportive, and the same goes for the towns and regional communities involved, and of course with sports unions. We have strongly emphasized environmental questions, and have given environmental concerns an important place in the overall Candidature Project."


TSS: How does Poprad-Tatry compare with the oher cities bidding (Zakopane, Poland; Salzburg, Austria; Innsbruck, Austria; and Sion, Switzerland)? What are Poprad-Tatry's advantages over the others?


JS:"We set ourselves the goal of minimizing the distances between events and maximizing the comfort of the athletes, as far as accomodation and sport facilities are concerned. That is where our greatest strengths lie. We have solved the main problem of distance between sites - the longest distance separating two sports events will be 60 kilometers. We consulted with the Polish Olympic Committee on the possibilities of cooperation between Poprad-Tatry and Zakopane, although we do not have much information about the Zakopane Candidature Project. The Swiss Sion bid is no doubt going to be a very strong competitor although it is their first application for the Winter Olympics and Winter Paraplegic Games. The Austrian Olympic Committee has decided by secret vote that from their three candidates - Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Kutzhubel - Klagenfurt will get the nod to apply for the Winter Olympics together with Italy and Slovenia. Although this decision was taken very recently, and we still do not have details about the Klagenfurt project, from the point of view of the rich sport tradition of the Alp triangle it is going to be another very strong competitor."


TSS: Up to 85 per cent of the necessary sports facilities, hotels and other related buildings for the Winter Olympics, as well as an entire transportation network, remain to be built. How much will these things cost and will everything be ready on time?


JS: "The Poprad-Tatry Candidature Project for the 2006 Winter Olympics is being prepared in such a way that if we are chosen, we will be able to say to the world on January 1, 2006, 'Poprad-Tatry is ready'. Regarding investment, it is nessesary to divide it into two parts: investment in sports activities - building sport sites, organizing the games - will absorb 17 billion SK. The second part consists of the infrastructure network - building for commercial purposes in the region will cost 19 billion, transportation will eat up 16 billion, while technical infrastructure will amount to 1.8 billion. The Slovak Government, domestic and foreign enterprises and independent towns and communities will all contribute a share to these investments. Total costs will be 65.755 billion SK. If we analyze the financial project on a percentage basis, then 16% of money will go for sports buildings, 51% for commercial buildings and 33% on general infrastructure. What do we get from it? For sure we get more than the 15% mentioned above. The basic infrastructure is already built in the Poprad-Tatry region, so now we have to complete it and then build the next part. Transportation? The transportation network, which includes a Bratislava -Poprad highway, will be finished in 2004. We want this region to become a centre of international travel and tourism, and we are looking at a long-term programme. The same goes for the construction of sporting centers, accomodation, hotels and a service network. Slovakia will be welcoming sportsmen to the World Winter University Games in the Tatry in 1999, and then just two months later in the same region the participants of the Sixth European Youth Olympic Days (EYOD). We want to present the Tatry at these events in new clothing."


TSS: What guarantee can you give that the environment of the Tatras region will not be negatively affected?


JS: "We cannot prevent some negative impact on the environment in the Tatry area during the Winter Olympics at this moment, but we can guarantee that the harm will be minimalized. I would like to be concrete: for example there are changes to communal garbage disposal, transportation arrangements, saving energy and so on. Within the framework of the candidature project two sport sites infringe on the protected environment of the National Parks: one at Štrbské pleso and the second one in Jasná. I want to call attention to the fact that in these areas people enjoyed sports even during the time when the National Park was not seen as a way of protecting the enviroment, and today too. Our goal is not to interfere with the environment but to complete these sports facilities to high standards, and in the case of Jasná, to renew the tradition of international level athletics."


TSS: What are Slovakia's chances of success? Would Slovakia bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics if it were not awarded the 2006 Games?


JS:"It is clear that only one project can win - the one that brings together all the best elements. The International Com-mittee decides who wins, but in our long-term programme to develop travel and tourism centres and the infrastructure of the Vysoké Tatry we will forge ahead regardless. Poprad-Tatry is not going to give up the dream of staging the Winter Olympics very easily."

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