21 Apr 2021
In February, a delegation of 28 staff members from Milano Cortina 2026 took part in an observation programme at the Cortina 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships for learning purposes, as part of their own preparations for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The team benefited hugely from closely observing the event operations at a site which will host some of the Olympic and Paralympic competitions in five years’ time, taking thorough looks behind the scenes and structuring their needs and learnings.
Understanding the event complexities
Diana Bianchedi, an Olympian in fencing and now the OCOG’s Games Project Director, said: “This observation opportunity was very important for our team to build awareness and understand the complexities of organising high-level sports competitions in challenging weather conditions. The fact that the event took place in Cortina, where we will host a number of events in 2026 for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, was helpful to better understand the overall environment where we will operate in a few years’ time. Milano Cortina 2026 is currently a small team, and very few of our staff have been exposed to the organisation of such events. Therefore this really was a unique and useful experience for all of them.”
Valentina Marchei, a former elite figure skater who participated in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and is now a member of the OCOG’s communications team, fully agreed on the value of this observation experience: “When I was a professional athlete, I had no idea of the huge ‘working machine’ behind each event I would attend until I got to work for one myself. Cortina 2021 wasn’t the first event that I got to experience behind the scenes, as I was competition manager for the figure skating Grand Prix Final in 2019 and had the opportunity to learn a lot from the ISU at that time on how to organise a big event. However, Cortina 2021 was the first non-skating event I could experience behind the scenes from a totally different angle, as an observer for the communications team. It was very helpful to see how well the Organising Committee managed difficulties in such a challenging time and was able to find different solutions to run the event as smoothly as possible. At the same time, it was a good opportunity for the Milano Cortina 2026 communications team to find ways to create content for our own communication channels in light of the current COVID-19 limitations. My professional career taught me to always adapt to situations and find solutions; Cortina 2021 was good practice off the ice.”
Building the foundations for successful observation
Besides the operational lessons learnt, the event also offered Milano Cortina 2026 an important opportunity to develop an observation framework, which they will use at other major events in the run-up to their Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games edition.
Iacopo Mazzeti, the OCOG’s Stakeholder Relationships Manager, explained: “We used the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships as a pilot to develop an observation framework, including templates to capture and analyse needs and resulting learnings, and the implementation of debrief sessions post-event. The lessons learnt will help us to prepare our participation in the Games Experience Programme in Beijing in 2022.”