Reporting from Cavalese, Italy – A USD $53 million plan to revitalize the derelict Eugenio Monti sliding track in Cortina d’Ampezzo has become a driving force behind Italy’s Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid.
On Tuesday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission, as part of a five-day site inspection tour of Italy, visited the venue made famous at the 1956 Winter Games. It closed in 2008.
In recent years the IOC, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) and the International Luge Federation (FIL) have made it known that there are enough competitive sliding tracks in the world, and have warned against construction of new facilities that are costly with legacy risks. For Italy, the IOC have suggested using existing operational facilities in St. Moritz, Switzerland or Innsbruck, Austria to host the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events in 2026
Rival 2026 bid Stockholm-Åre 2026 has made plans to partner with the Latvian town of Sigulda, where there is an existing track and the government is willing to invest in upgrades and provide athlete accommodations.
But the IOC seems willing to work with Cortina in this case, bringing the iconic venue that featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, back into the competition circuit.
“We are very clear that there are enough tracks around the globe, and the two federations are very clear as well,” IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said at a stop in the South Tyrol community of Rasen-Antholz Tuesday, where he was inspecting the new biathlon venue.
“This is considered though as an existing track obviously which will be rebuilt.
“Two things we have to do. The first one is to look at the budget in detail, and also have other reference to make sure that these numbers can be verified including on our side. But also one question is regarding the development of this track, and that is not dependent on the Games, and that is very important.”
The Veneto region will provide the funding required for the refurbishment of the track. On Monday, Italy’s Secretary of Sport Giancarlo Giorgetti said the Prime Minister will sign the required IOC guarantees and commit up to 415 million euros (USD $466 million) to the Games – an amount that will cover security, essential service and possible additional infrastructure.
The IOC warned the PyeongChang 2018 organizing committee to cancel plans for a purpose-built track for the Games and instead site the event at existing facilities in Nagano, Japan. The Koreans built the track, and now it lies unused, forcing the province to fund expensive maintenance without real legacy.
“The Mayor [Gianpietro Ghedina] was very clear as well, he ran his election also on the fact that the track would be renovated, so it’s not linked to the Games, its actually a need for the region,” Dubi said.
“It’s a traditional sliding track and it’s an historic place full of meaning for us.” said Armin Zöggeler, a six time Olympic medalist and two-time champion in luge.
“Our aim is to rebuild this track even if we don’t get the Olympic Games because in Italy we don’t have any place to do this kind of sport, and we go to Austria for the racing and the training and also for our championship.”
Last month the sliding track in Calgary, Canada that was built for the 1988 Olympic Games was forced to shut down because the city lacked funds to pay for necessary upgrades to the facility. Federal and Provincial financing promised to save the venue were contingent on Calgary winning the 2026 Olympic bid, but organizers were forced to withdraw after plans were defeated in a referendum.
In Cortina, sliding is not only linked to the culture of the small ski resort town, but could be a boost to the economy and a key component of the co-hosting region of the bid.
Within a short journey from the sliding track is the Women’s Alpine venue, and the Olympic Ice Stadium that played host for the 1956 Opening Ceremonies and is being proposed for curling in 2026. These competition venues are supported by a main media centre and Olympic Village comprised of temporary modules.
Moving the sliding venue could disrupt plans, and Italy’s bid is the IOC’s only sure bet for 2026 while Sweden struggles to gain government support.
The IOC says it will study the sliding track proposal in more detail.
The team traveled beyond Cortina through the South Tyrol and Trento regions towards Milan to visit proposed biathlon, cross country, Nordic combined and ski jumping venues. They will spend the night in Cavalese before traveling to Milan Wednesday to begin examining ice venues in the city.
GamesBids.com will be reporting from Italy this week until April 7, bringing you on-site coverage of the important Evaluation Commission visit. Follow us on Twitter @GamesBids or on Facebook to keep up with this event.