By Nick Butler at The Starling Hotel in Lausanne

Lviv has been described as a "hidden gem of Europe" by Oleksandr Vilkul ©Lviv 2022December 7 - Oleksandr Vilkul, Ukraine's vice-Prime Minister and head of Lviv's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, has claimed the city is "one of Europe's best kept secrets".

He described the opportunities provided by the city itself as well as by the great potential for holding Winter sports.
"Lviv is the cultural capital of Ukraine, it is one of Europe's best-kept secrets," he told insidethegames.

"The Carpathians, with their climate and terrain, are a fantastic area for skiing sports while the city of Lviv has long athletic traditions in ice sports.

"Our plan offers a Winter Games on an intimate and sustainable scale.

"We want to create a more intimate Games experience and atmosphere for a 'cozy, winter celebration of sport'"

"Preparations for hosting a Winter Games will further unlock the great potential that this area has and we will see even more sports fans visit Lviv and the Carpathians."

Oleksandr Vilkul in between President of the Ukranian Olympic Committee Sergey Bubka and Mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyy ©Lviv 2022Oleksandr Vilkul in between President of the Ukranian Olympic Committee Sergey Bubka and Mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyy ©Lviv 2022

Vilkul described this "clear vision" of a Games which balances this "more intimate experience" with the "exacting standards of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement" as the most important thing that they have to get right if they are to be successful. 

He described the bid as "a national priority for Ukraine with total commitment from all levels of Government," before describing how it would benefit the country in many different ways. 

"Our Games plan is a plan that is based on true need for winter sports infrastructure and development," he said. 

"It is reasonable, affordable and focused on building facilities that have a sustainable basis based on a rational mix of recreational and elite use.

"Besides, Lviv and the surrounding region is an area that is under-served by winter sport facilities, and Lviv 2022 would create new opportunities for sport and open up new markets for sports and business organisations alike.

Vilkul strongly denied suggestions that, with next year's Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in neighbouring Russia, the Lviv bid will be considered too similar to Sochi 2014.

He insisted that the "concept of Lviv 2022 differs from both Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018."

Lviv will be different from the extravagance of Sochi 2014, Vilkul claims ©Getty ImagesLviv will not be disadvantaged by Sochi 2014, Oleksandr Vilkul believes 
©Getty Images

"Our bid would mix modern venues and transport systems with the extraordinary Carpathian spirit and atmosphere," he explained.

"While the European Union border is just 90 kilometres from Lviv. Ukraine is an independent country in central Europe, at the geographical centre of Europe.

"I do not see why Sochi 2014 would hinder our bid - Sochi is much further away, almost 1500 km, than most other European cities."

Ukraine's Minister of Youth and Sport Ravil Safiullin was his country's representative at the IOC orientation seminar here, and he repeated Vilkul's claims as to the popularity of the bid, citing surveys which showed over 80 per cent of the population in support. 

He explained how the Games will build on the support and improvements brought by preparing for the 2012 European Football Championships, which were jointly hosted between Ukraine and Poland, as well as EuroBasket in 2015.  

Both events have incorporated Lviv and have led to improvements in the realms of airports, accommodation and highways, and hosting the Games in 2022 would allow progress to continue, he claimed. 

Lviv is aiming to use experienced garnered during preparations for Euro 2012 and EuroBasket 2015 ©Getty ImagesLviv is aiming to use experienced garnered during preparations for Euro 2012 and EuroBasket 2015 ©Getty Images

Safiullin claimed the demonstrations which have been taking place in Ukraine  will not affect the bid in any negative way.

"What is happening right now is part of the population expressing a point of view," he told insidethegames. 

"It is part of the political process in Ukraine and should not in any way affect our bid.

"In questions of sport our country is very much united and has huge support from the whole population for our project.

"Sport and our bid is going to be the uniting factor of our nation and I'm very proud our project has so much support in Ukraine."