The Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games organizing committee Tuesday approved plans for the construction of a new sliding facility in Cortina d’Ampezzo, but there is still no guarantee that the venue will be constructed or be approved for the Games.
The on-again, off-again plans to rebuild the dilapidated Eugenio Monti Sliding Track that was originally constructed for the 1956 Winter Olympics received only a single bidder earlier this month following two tenders for the work expected to cost 81.6 million euros (USD 88.7 million). Organizers say they are confident that the preparation of the new venue will be successful and fulfill the original Games masterplan, leaving a positive legacy for national sliding teams and residents in the region.
Nothing can move forward until a contract is signed with engineering firm Impresa Pizzarotti, something that organizers hope to accomplish in February to keep all of the events in Italy and not have to stage one across the border for the first time Winter Olympics history.
“It is not acceptable for the bobsled races to take place outside Italy,” Deputy Premier Antonio Tajan wrote on X (formerly Twitter) Tuesday adding “We will do everything to achieve the goal.”
But the unfinalized contract, inherent project risks and opposition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – that has promised a final decision “by the 31st of January” – have forced organizers to continue considering a plan B.
Earlier this month IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters “we, from the very beginning felt that this venue was extremely complex in terms of cost, in terms of legacy, in terms of timing, and we have promoted the use of an existing track.”
The sliding track used for bobsled, skeleton and luge at Italy’s Turin 2006 Winter Games has since been mothballed, casting more doubt on the legacy potential of a costly track in Cortina that even the international sports federations believe is unnecessary considering the number of other existing tracks scattered around the globe.
Milan-Cortina has promised that the track will be ready for testing by October 2024 and certified no later than March 2025 – an extremely aggressive and potentially record-breaking schedule for the complicated project. That will also leave limited time for test events ahead of the Games less than a year later in February 2026.
Any delay could instantly end the hope for Olympic sliding in Cortina, and tight timelines are often linked with skyrocketing costs.
Sliding tracks are unique and sometimes dangerous, and rigorous testing is required to iron out wrinkles that could be lethal. Despite it being certified two years in advance Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a training crash on the Whistler sliding track just ahead of the opening ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Track modifications were made within hours before competition to help reduce speeds and add safety measures.
As requested by the IOC, Italian organizers reached out to other selected tracks for proposals in December and several responded with interest including from nearby St. Moritz, Switzerland and Innsbruck, Austria. Even if the new Cortina track moves forward, one or more of these proposals will be retained in case of delays or failures in the risky project.
1932 and 1980 Winter Games host Lake Placid also submitted a proposal despite being an ocean apart from Italy.
The bid project manager from the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority Darcy Rowe Norfolk told GamesBids.com “the Winter Olympic Games of today require creative approaches, and perhaps, safety nets.”
“We are hopefully to be Italy’s helping hand as together, we won’t just help host the Games, as a cross nation family formed by legacy, we’ll make history with both being hosts for the third time.”
To address legacy Lake Placid officials said they would name turn 7 in honor of Italian bobsledder Eugenio Monti who won the 1961 World Championship on the U.S. track, and they would welcome the Italian team to use the facility as their home training track.
But many Italians are vehement in their desire for a viable national track for the culturally significant sliding sports.
Many questions remain unanswered, but with the arrival of the end of January milestone to finalize plans, the next step is up to the IOC.