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Kas jāmaina Latvijas sportā? - Zviedrijas un Latvijas olimpiskā savienība: vai iedzīvotāji to vispār gribēs?

Is there any public enthusiasm for a Swedish-Latvian Winter Olympic bid?

Although a bid has not yet been officially released, Sweden sees Latvia as its potential partner in organizing the 2030 Winter Olympic Games, with Sigulda's luge, skeleton and bobsleigh track taking part, reports LTV's sports department. 

Officials in Latvia have expressed their enthusiasm about getting involved, but so far there is little or no evidence about whether public opinion is equally enthusiastic. Many countries have declined to host the Olympic Games precisely because of public pressure, whether it's about disruption to daily routines or the enormous financial costs of hosting Olympic events.

In the last 10 years, citizens' referendums have blocked the Olympic candidacies of Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Canada, while in the U.S. city of Boston, residents demanded a referendum so insistently that the idea of ​​candidacy was abandoned without holding it at all. In 2018, the referendum of the residents of the Canadian city of Calgary said no to the idea of ​ hosting the Winter Olympic Games.  

Professor Josef Fahlen of the Department of Education of the University of Umea in Sweden, in a conversation with Latvian Television, said Canadian residents had painful memories of the costly experience of hosting the Winter Olympic Games. 

"The organizers of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics paid off their last dollar of debt just a couple of years ago, so people have become more aware of the dangers of hosting the games when it comes to public funding or coverage for possible losses," Fahlen said.

Professor Fahlen, who studies the interaction between sports and politics, pointed out that  while Swedes are very sporty – there are 22 thousand sports clubs for 10 million inhabitants – society might not be in favor big Olympic spending.

"Currently, there is an opinion in society that now more than ever, public spending should be used for important welfare issues such as schools, housing, healthcare and similar areas," explained Fahlen. According to him, the Swedish public would gladly host the Olympics if there wasn't a danger of massive overspending. 

"Swedish sports have an annual budget of 200 million euros. Comparing this figure to the cost of the Olympic Games, Swedish taxpayers would simply faint if they knew how much risk they would be taking in case of covering losses," added Fahlen.

The proposal to support the hosting of the Olympic Games in the Swedish Parliament was put forward by opposition MP Per Arne Hokansson in early October. The proposal has still not been considered in the Swedish parliament and is not on the agenda, although it was originally expected that a decision would be made by the end of October.

Meanwhile in Latvia, Sigulda District Council Chairperson Līga Sausiņa stated that land has already been earmarked for the construction of an Olympic Village, and the buildings would later be used to supplement the city's housing stock. Demand for housing in Sigulda is very high, so Sausiņa does not see the risk of having to think about what to do with legacy buildings after the Olympics.

"I definitely see the benefits. First of all, I see the benefit in the fact that the place where there is currently no construction is taking shape," Sausiņa said. "The road infrastructure has to be built in a completely different way there, but the Olympics, through the [bobsled and luge] track, is a huge contribution to the economy of the region and the economy of Latvia as a whole."

Although Latvia's economy is not in the best of shape, the Olympic enthusiasm of local officials is notable.

Political scientist Lelde Metla-Rosentāle explains this by underlining the publicity that hosting the Olympic Games would provide. For larger countries, publicity is not so important, so they calculate expenses first. There is also the matter of novelty – Latvia has never hosted an Olympics, while Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries have done so, sometimes several times over.

Meanwhile the attitude of the general public in Latvia remains an unknown. According to LTV, perhaps it would be worth while to hold a referendum on the matter – though this would require at least one tenth of voters to demand such a vote and, if the experience of other countries is any guide, the general tendency when a public is asked for its opinion is a resounding thumbs-down.

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