Representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) traveled to Italy this week to inspect venues proposed by a joint bid from Milan and 1956 host city Cortina d’Ampezzo to stage the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
The Italian bid is leveraging a concept that was launched just weeks ago after a three-city joint project involving 2006 host city Turin collapsed. The plans involve a regional concept where most venues already exist, and some require only upgrades.
The technical tour wrapped up Thursday, and was designed to win specific approvals from the IOC after the Italian joint bid was accepted as a candidate along with Calgary in Canada and Stockholm in Sweden at an October 9 meeting in Buenos Aires.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) called the visit “the first formal step after the approval of the nomination by the IOC.”
For CONI, Diana Bianchedi coordinated the visit with the participation of the institutional representatives of the cities and regions involved in the project.
Attilio Fontana, President of Milan’s Lombardy Region said the visit was “the first of a series of visits scheduled by the IOC to evaluate candidates for the Winter Olympic Games 2026. We are very pleased to welcome them and show that we have all the right credentials to win them over.”
“I want to reiterate that lead city of the bid will certainly be Milan,” adding that the goal will be to organize a low-cost Games that will benefit the territories hosting it.”
Fontana said a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed among the stakeholders of the project as a basis for the bid book that must be delivered to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by January 11, 2019.
After the initial three-city concept failed, Italy’s federal government dropped its promises to fund the project but maintained political support for the bid. CONI has confirmed that the regional governments representing the two cities plan to fill the federal funding void from their own coffers, and raise further capital from private sources.
On Wednesday IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters in Calgary that there would be no further cash contributions to 2026 bids beyond the USD $925 million cash and in-kind contribution that has already been committed by the organization. He said that as a non-profit, there were no cash reserves that weren’t already committed to beneficiary sport bodies.
Turin, and its 12-year-old facilities, were dropped from initial plans after the city’s Mayor Chiara Appendino refused to join a project fronted by Milan, and demanded an equal participation in the organization.
But Sergio Chiamparino, President of the Piedmont Region of which Turin is the Capital, said he can make venues available for the project without the involvement of the city government. He blamed his region’s absence from the Olympic bid on complicated politics but said he is still interested in benefiting from a possible Games.
He told LaPresse that there is “still a crack,” and he hopes Piedmont can participate in the bid.
Two venues in Turin including the Olympic Speed-skating Oval and the Pala Alpitour Arena, both built for the 2006 Games, may be vital for Italy’s plans and these facilities could be rented to the organizing committee. This, according to Chiamparino would “save lots of money” for the project.
According to local media reports Appendino may be warming up to renewed cooperation with the Milan-Cortina bid. She met with the other Mayors this week for informal discussions.
Doubts still remain that CONI can organize and get all necessary plans and approvals in place in time to meet the bid book deadline. Both Summer bids by Capital Rome for the 2020 and 2024 Games were canceled when support was withheld from federal and municipal governments, respectively.
Bids from Italy’s rivals are also questionable with Calgary facing a November 13 plebiscite that is likely to determine the fate of the Canadian candidacy, and Stockholm continuing to seek elusive government support to host the first-ever Winter Games in Sweden.
The IOC will elect a winner towards the end of June 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.