Austria could ‘co-host’ the Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics: Here’s why

The Olympic Sliding Centre near Innsbruck, Austria has become the leading contender to stage luge, skeleton and bobsleigh at the 2026 Winter Olympics set to be hosted in Northern Italy. The former Olympic city will likely get a call from officials after an announcement Monday that they would be looking outside Italy for a venue.

IBSF World Cup at the Olympic Sliding Centre near Innsbruck, Austria February 2023 (Photo: IBSF)
IBSF World Cup at the Olympic Sliding Centre near Innsbruck, Austria February 2023 (Photo: IBSF)

The joint Milano-Cortina Games had planned to host the events at the iconic Eugenio Monti Sliding Centre originally featured at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games. The venue had fallen into disrepair and closed in 2008 but plans were in place to rebuild. The new construction plan was controversial as International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials urged against building expensive infrastructure for the Games without a strong and sustainable legacy plan.

In 2019 the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) and the International Luge Federation (FIL) warned against construction of a new track in Cortina, saying there were already enough facilities across the globe.

While bidding for the Games, Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Giovanni Malagò assured that funding was already set aside for the project as part of an overall goal to support tourism in the Veneto region, and strong demand for the facility existed.


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Rising costs since the host election in 2019 forced the government to end plans to fund the project and CONI was notified of the issue last week.

“The government has informed us that it is considering the best and most sustainable option: to not go ahead with the sliding centre and move the sliding competitions to an already existing and working venue. As a result, Milano Cortina 2026 has to identify another venue outside Italy,” Malagò told IOC members at their annual Session held in Mumbai, India this week.

The IOC said it supports the decision that it had always encouraged Milano-Cortina to make. It will be the first time Winter Olympics events will be staged in two separate countries.

With construction delays in Cortina apparent, Austrian officials had already offered the use of the Innsbruck Sliding Centre last month. The mountainous drive between the two sites is 165 kilometers and about 3 hours travel time.

Innsbruck was in the running to fully host the same 2026 edition before more than 53 percent of voters across the region rejected plans in a referendum. Four cities dropped out of the race before Italy defeated Sweden’s Stockholm-Åre bid by a vote of 47-34.

Innsbruck hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, and staged the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012.

According to Austrian media and Germany’s Sportchau the track is already set to undergo renovations next year and would be up-to-date to support the Olympics for a rent of 12 million euros.

The Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) confirmed Monday that the offer stands and they would be “very happy to hold direct discussions.” ÖOC President Karl Stoss who chairs the IOC Future Host Commission was also in Mumbai for the announcement and voiced his support for the plan.

The next nearest possible venue is in St. Moritz, more than 300 kilometers away. The Swiss region is currently vying to host the 2030 Winter Games.

Further away, the Oberhof Sliding Track in Germany has also been offered by the German Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton Federation (BSD) on Tuesday, according to Sportchau.

Other reports say the sliding track in China used for Beijing 2022 would be available, but the distance could be prohibitive.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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