Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) President Giovanni Malagò admitted Wednesday that his nation’s rival 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid from Sweden would be difficult to beat if both cities make it to the June election.
A joint bid between Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo remains in the running with only Stockholm after five of seven applicants exited the race early.
Speaking in Rome where the 265th National Council of CONI gathered for a scheduled meeting, Malagò said “If we run [with Stockholm], I tell you that it will be difficult to play this game.”
“Our team is very strong but Sweden is a country of great tradition and has never hosted the Winter Olympics.”
“On January 11th there is at deadline for the application,” he added, referring to the delivery of a detailed bid book with various guarantees, including those from government entities.
“I do not know what the situation in Stockholm is, we have the peculiarities of our country, Stockholm has a very strong organizing committee.”
Malagò said Italy’s standing with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is robust, where he himself was elected as a member this past October and five other Italians currently serve including Ivo Ferriani on the Executive Board.
But he admitted that Sweden’s lobby is “powerful” with three serving in the IOC including influential Executive Board member Gunilla Lindberg.
Both cities face political resistance at home that could keep them off the final ballot to be taken in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) has promised an Olympics that would be privately funded without taxpayer contributions, but a recently formed city coalition government has already rejected a bid campaign, and the Swedish national government has yet to form after recent elections.
The SOK has entered further discussions with the city, but results have yet to emerge.
The Italian government said it will support CONI’s bid, but will not contribute any funding after the original three-city concept collapsed and 2006 Games host Turin was removed from plans. The Milan-Cortina bid will instead rely on funding from the regions representing the two cities.
But full guarantees are still not in place.
On Wednesday, Italy’s Lombardy region tentatively approved the provision of funding for the bid to support Capital Milan’s participation. An estimated 217.5 million euros (USD $248 million) is required of the region, of which 10 percent is to be provisioned in a proposed amendment that will need to be signed by President of the Commission for Culture and Sport Curzio Trezzani.
Trezzani said “participation in the Olympics represents an extraordinary opportunity for the development and promotion of all the territories involved and the enhancement of the commercial, tourist and cultural sector, unique and precious excellences of our Lombardy.”
Several more guarantees are still to be secured including agreements from the municipalities involved, and assurances that essential services, and security, will be available for the Games.
Malagò spoke with cautious optimism regarding his collaboration with the government, indicating that he had met with elected officials four times last week. He said talks were open, respectful and constructive – but ongoing and full of complexities.
Earlier this month IOC President Thomas Bach seemed more confident about guarantees when he spoke after an Executive Board meeting, he said “In the case of Sweden there is already the indication that the budget will be privately financed and the necessary guarantees will be there for the delivery.”
“For Milan and Cortina the declarations of the two provinces are there to guarantee the delivery. This guarantee cannnot be compared any more to the guarantee that the IOC has been requesting before.
“Before it was a deficit guarantee.
“This is not the case anymore.”
Last month a bid from Calgary in Canada dropped out of the running after it was defeated in a city-wide plebiscite. Earlier, Sion lost a similar vote across Valais Canton in Switzerland and bids from Graz in Austria and Sapporo in Japan also dropped out. A bid from Erzurum in Turkey was dismissed when the IOC deemed it too costly.
Last week the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chose 2002 host Salt Lake City to lead a “future” Winter Olympic bid for the U.S. Officials say they will target 2030 or beyond, but the rush to nominate a city so far in advance of the IOC’s bidding schedule has led many observers to believe that the Utah Capital could be called upon should both Italy and Sweden be unable to generate the required support.