Reporting from Stockholm, Sweden – For the second straight day, top Italian politicians have thrown their support behind the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid even as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) evaluation team kicked off a visit to the rival Swedish bid in Stockholm and Åre.
On Tuesday Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella said the Games “…are of great importance, not only for the two leading cities but for the whole of Italy.”
According to Milano Today he added “I assure all the support and backing possible.”
His comments come only a day after Italy’s influential Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini offered similar strong words, describing the possible Games a showcase for the two regions of Veneto and Lombardy that are involved in the bid.
“As for the commitment of the government, I think it should be there,” Salvini said.
The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) is still engaged in talks with the government to secure needed guarantees for its bid.
Last year, after 2006 Olympics host city Turin was excluded by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) from a proposed three-city bid, the Italian government denied any funding for the new two-city concept. Both Italy and Sweden missed January deadlines to provide national guarantees that were to include assurances for security, visa support and other essential services.
IOC officials said last week that the bids will have until the June 24 host city election to collect all necessary guarantees, and Italian politicians have since been warming up to the possibility of extending funds.
Milan Mayor Beppe Sala reacted to the news saying “It would be bizarre if the government finances the Turin ATP (Tennis tournament) and not the Olympics.”
“Today I want to let Salvini work and wait and see what happens.”
This week’s one-two punch by the Italian government has overshadowed the IOC’s planned evaluation visit to Sweden to assess the venues and overall hosting plan. The inspection opened Monday at ski facilities in Åre, and is to continue in Stockholm and Falun before the team leaves Saturday. The visit has remained low-key, a sharp contrast to past bid visits that have included celebration and pageantry.
The same IOC team, led by Romanian Octavian Morariu, will visit Italy from April 2 to 6, and incorporate their findings in an evaluation report.
In Åre, the IOC team faced media questions addressing recent criticism of the snow conditions at the February World Cup event. Morariu, according to Sport Bladet, dismissed fears explaining that weather cannot be controlled, and adverse conditions at other venues including at the PyeongChang Olympics last year can be corrected.
IOC Executive Board member Gunilla Lindberg from Sweden along with Olympian Stefan Holm were in Åre representing the bid, and both denied they were nervous about the important inspection.
“Not right now, Holm told Sport Bladet. But in June, when the vote takes place, it will be terrible.”
Like in Italy, Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) officials are also still seeking government assurances to qualify for the June ballot. Bid Chief Richard Brisius said last week that talks are progressing.
The IOC Evaluation Commission will tour venues in Stockholm Wednesday.
GamesBids.com will be reporting from Sweden this week, 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.