Costly construction delays, a leadership vacancy linked to a volatile political climate and a lack of sponsors amid a spreading financial crisis has prompted International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to acknowledge the "challenges" facing organizers for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Costly construction delays, a leadership vacancy linked to a volatile political climate and a lack of sponsors amid a spreading financial crisis has prompted International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to acknowledge the “challenges” facing organizers of the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
With the IOC’s coordination commission visit to the Milan and Cortina venues postponed by three months to December because of national elections in Italy slated for later this month, it was left to Bach to handle matters during a visit with outgoing premier Mario Draghi before receiving an award from the Italian Olympic Committee.
“As always before Olympic Games, there are challenges — in particular light of this new emerging world order and the financial and economic crisis,” Bach said Friday.
“But we have overcome some challenges in the last couple of years,” Bach added, referring to games held in Tokyo and Beijing amid the coronavirus pandemic. “So I’m not too worried because we know about the enthusiasm, efficiency and the dedication of our Italian friends.”
In an era of increasing sensitivity about the cost of Olympics — and the typical overspends funded by taxpayers — Bach said one of the most expensive venue upgrades for 2026 would not be included in official Milano-Cortina budgets.
Italian authorities have set aside more than 80 million euros ($80 million) to renovate the historic sliding track in Cortina for bobsled, luge and skeleton races.
Bach explained “this would be a touristic and sport project which would go ahead anyway and regardless of the Olympic Winter Games.”
Bach also supported local authorities who are waiting until after the election to appoint a new CEO of the organizing committee after the departure of Vincenzo Novari — a move which has paralyzed construction and other plans, such as the recruitment of sponsors.
“The new CEO must have and should have the support of the new government,” Bach said. “It would not be advisable to appoint such a CEO right now, a couple of (weeks) before national elections.”
The 2026 Games will be the most widespread Olympics ever, with venues spread out over 22,000 square kilometers (nearly 10,000 square miles) across a vast swath of northern Italy — from the regions of Lombardy and Veneto to the provinces of Trento and Bolzano.
The 2026 organizers have followed the IOC’s plans for modern Olympics to cut costs and not build taxpayer-funded white elephant venues.
“Thanks to the new rules we were able to imagine a candidacy like Milan-Cortina,” 2026 committee coordinator Diana Bianchedi told Bach. “I promise to you we won’t let you down.”
There had been discussions of holding sliding at an existing venue just beyond Italy’s border in St. Moritz, Switzerland, or Innsbruck, Austria.
The IOC recently created a panel for cost cutting, which makes the move to keep sliding in Cortina surprising.
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