With an International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline looming, Italian cities are making last-ditch efforts to be considered for 2026 Olympic Winter Games bids.
The city of Turin, hosts for the 2006 Games, and Milan are both currently mulling the idea of entering the race. The cities have until March 31 to convince the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to send a letter of interest to the IOC, and that will buy time until the race officially kicks off in October when qualified candidates will be invited to bid.
The sudden interest comes after last week’s general election in Italy and the rise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement party that won the highest number of votes. The party’s founder, Beppo Grillo opposed Rome’s 2024 Summer Games bid leading to its eventual demise, but in a sudden change of face Grillo has endorsed a Turin bid for 2026.
“The Olympic Games are a great occasion for Turin and for the Movement,” AFP reports Grillo said.
“We will prove we can have zero debts and [host] in a sustainable way.”
Rome’s bid ended after the election of Mayor Virginia Raggi of Grillo’s party. She claimed that financing the Games would be devastating for the city and the event would divert much needed funds from other fundamental city projects.
But Grillo now claims that new IOC rules, combined with the infrastructure already available in Turin would make the project low risk.
Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino wants a letter of interest sent endorsing her city, but with Milan also forming plans – which could leverage facilities in Turin – CONI must make the decision.
President of CONI Giovanni Malago said “There is a beautiful fight for positions.”
“Suddenly everything is back in fashion. Perhaps because of the success of Pyeongchang, and not only the sporting success.
“In this case there is already the availability of the local authority and CONI, but we must listen to the new executive – when there’s a government.”
“It is not the mayor who writes to the IOC to express the will of the city to apply, but the president of CONI.”
Since no majority was won, parties in Italy are jostling for control of the Parliament and it may not be sorted out until next month. CONI could still, however, send a letter of interest to keep a nomination in the running.
A possible candidacy of Milan was first raised at the IOC’s all-members Session in Lima, Peru last September.
In Lima, Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said “now Milan is a city under transformation, [people] can be surprised by what Milan has become.”
The Mayor attended the event because Milan was being chosen to host the IOC Session to be held in September 2019 when the host city for 2026 is due to be elected. If any Italian city is accepted into the race, that meeting venue would have to be moved outside national borders in order to adhere to IOC conflict-of-interest rules.
A possible disruption to this high-profile international sport event that often attracts world leaders and international press may cause CONI officials to think twice about forwarding a 2026 bid.
Italy previously hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice – in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Turin in 2006.
Turin would represent the latest in a string of former Winter Games hosts seeking to stage the Games for a second or third time. Innsbruck’s run at a third Games was halted when the Austrian city lost a referendum. Calgary in Canada and Sapporo in Japan have already expressed interest in a 2026 bid. Salt Lake City is set to bid for the 2030 edition.
Lillehammer has recently been discussed as a possible Norway nomination for either 2026 or 2030.
The IOC’s latest push towards a sustainable low-cost Games model has attracted cities that already have most of the facilities in place, favoring repeat hosts.
Sion in Switzerland and Stockholm in Sweden have also sent 2026 letters of interest to the IOC and have participated in the interactive dialogue phase of the bid – but each interested city still face hurdles before they can move forward when the race officially kicks off in October at an IOC Session in Buenos Aires ahead of the Youth Olympic Games. Graz in Austria is also expected to send a letter before the deadline.
The next Olympic Winter Games will be held in Beijing in 2022.