Unused for thirty years, the Grenoble Olympic ski jumping hill is seeking reconversion

Moss and grass are eating away at the concrete structure, trees have grown along the stands

Unused for thirty years, the Grenoble Olympic ski jumping hill is seeking reconversion

Moss and grass are eating away at the concrete structure, trees have grown along the stands. Nature has long since reclaimed its rights on the Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte springboard, the flagship infrastructure of the 1968 Winter Olympics. Stretching out over a hundred meters in length facing the city of Grenoble, moored at the eastern slopes of the Vercors massif, the old springboard looks like an abandoned vessel, waiting to be awakened from its long sleep.

“It’s one of the most beautiful springboards in the world,” enthuses Franck Girard, mayor of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte since 2001. This is also how it was described at the time of the Games. of Grenoble, the media and the sports community. Particularly photogenic, the structure gave the competitors the impression of "flying over Grenoble in their tracks", underlined a local press article, and the skiers' jumps were immortalized by cameras around the world.

But of all the installations erected for the Grenoble Games – which were subsequently destroyed or recycled – the Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte ski jump is the only one not to have found a new life. Too big, too complex, too expensive. “No economic and sporting model is suitable for putting this springboard back into use,” analyzed André Suchet, teacher-researcher at the University of Bordeaux, in an academic article. This construction was not designed as a regional ski jumping sports facility, but rather as a media device for the city of Grenoble and the Northern Alps in the world, an almost single-use device. »

End of approval in 1990

If the hill occasionally hosted competitions during the two decades following the 1968 Games, its sporting vocation ended definitively in 1990 after the refusal of the International Ski Federation to renew its approval, and while new springboards, with safer orientation and snow cover, were erected in Courchevel for the 1992 Albertville Games.

After another decade of hesitation, alternately considering its destruction or its sale, the city of Grenoble which owned it sold the springboard for a symbolic euro to the small town of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte.

Since then, many people have wanted to breathe new life into the structure. Projects and ideas, more or less successful, jostled: nature fun activity park, exhibition space, climbing wall, mountain restaurant... But studies to estimate the cost of rehabilitating the site are ongoing. are also accumulated and, faced with the effects of time, this cost has increased inexorably, to the point of discouraging all project leaders. “We are necessarily talking about projects costing several hundred thousand euros,” emphasizes Franck Girard.

The site, which continues to attract walkers and the curious although closed to the public, occasionally serves as a setting for various sporting competitions, hosted the filming of a music video and the installation of a disc golf course, variant outdoor frisbee.

But despite these initiatives, the Saint-Nizier springboard has joined the list of Olympic “wastelands” scattered across the world, regularly singled out for contesting the holding of the Olympics. The issue was raised again during the announcement of the French Alps' candidacy for the 2030 Winter Games, even though the presidents of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regions, holders of the application, promised “sober and economical” games, using 95% of already existing infrastructure.

A Grenoble lawyer “madly in love” with the site

Enough to annoy the town councilor, who nevertheless does not lose hope for the future of the springboard. A new project has occupied the small town of Vercors for a little over a year which, although it cannot really participate financially, has given it its support through a municipal decision. In the fall of 2022, a Grenoble lawyer with a passion for architecture, Arnaud Dollet, presented his project, called “Metamorphosis”, to the residents and elected officials of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte.

“Falling madly in love” with the springboard site in 2021, Arnaud Dollet has since been working, with a team of architects, on a project with several entrances combining exhibition space and permanent museum, restoration and park of works of art.

The new project leader estimates the renovation and cleaning work alone at around 500,000 euros, and his total project between 3.5 and 4 million euros. “The two buildings around the springboard, the waxing room and the judges' tower, are generally in good condition, but this is not the case for the springboard itself which has been exposed to the elements,” underlines Arnaud Dollet.

The sum is significant, but the lawyer is optimistic: for a year and a half, he has been increasing discussions with the Heritage Foundation, with which a file is being examined in the hope of participating in the Heritage Mission. Work could start in 2024, the Olympic year.