Milano Cortina marks dawn of new Olympic Winter Games era

Milano Cortina 2026 will be an inspiring and inclusive celebration of sport, culture and sustainability, aiming to touch the soul of the country and inspire the world by delivering an extraordinary Olympic and Paralympic Games with a lasting legacy.

In a series of articles that first appeared in Olympic Review edition 117, we asked journalists in the upcoming host countries of the Olympic Games to describe what the Games will mean for their communities. Writers from Paris, Milano and Los Angeles described their very personal visions with passion and enthusiasm.

Gianni Merlo, President of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) and a journalist at La Gazzetta dello Sport, looks ahead to the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026.

 

Four years until a new Winter Games era

The Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 will open a new era as suggested by Olympic Agenda 2020. A virtue of necessity was made, because the evolution of modern sport and the progressive expansion of competitive programmes have pointed towards this solution. The territory over which the races could be spread has gradually expanded. I have been lucky enough, as a journalist, to experience 12 editions of the Winter Olympics, hence I have experienced, first-hand, the evolution of the concept of the “diffused” or “spread” Olympics, which is more sustainable from all points of view.

We have moved from the mountain centre, as was the case of Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956, to a large city as a pivot with other scattered sister centres, up to the 2026 scenario covering three large regions such as Lombardia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.

The evolution has already been underway for some time. After all, the concept, albeit on a smaller scale, had already been tested at Albertville 1992. Then there were also proposals, albeit rejected, involving several countries, such as that of Tarvisio-Kranjska and Gora-Klagenfurt – that is Italy-Slovenia and Austria, and Helsinki (Finland) with Åre (Sweden). This concept of a communion of countries will probably re-emerge, because it is already very present in many important sports.

Livigno

Nearly 70 years ago, Cortina in 1956 also represented a moment of revolution from a political point of view, because the USSR team reappeared on the winter Olympic stage. Those were the years of the Iron Curtain when the balance of international politics was unstable, delicate, dangerous. In some respects, sport helped to ease the tension a little at that time, because it allowed openings that were impossible then in the diplomatic field.

Milano had already tried, in vain, to host the summer Olympic adventure, the 2000 and 2016 editions. In both cases it had withdrawn, because the surrounding political environment was not favourable. Heavy, cumbersome political jealousy had ballasted the two dreams, causing them to sink miserably. By 2000, the project for a futuristic Olympic Stadium had been prepared in Milano, which already took into account the ecological aspects and multimedia needs. Unfortunately, that project was never followed up. They were two heavy failures, hard to digest.

Cortina, on the other hand, after the “human” edition of the 1956 Games, had tried to put itself forward on two other occasions, but had no luck, also because the two bid committees did not have very clear ideas and internal divisions existed. Then for 2006, Cortina with Venice had participated in the home match against Torino, but in the end Torino was chosen, and then went on to organise the Games.

Now, Milano and Cortina have found a common way to demonstrate to the world how a “spread” Winter Olympics can be very successful and, above all, sustainable from an environmental and economic point of view.

It is not an easy, obvious task, but a real challenge that is more stimulating.

Engaging more areas, where competitions will be held, can allow a wider mobilisation of local forces, which will subsequently have the know-how to organise future events. This is an important detail to take into account. The Olympics require a great financial effort, but for this very reason the focus must not only be on the event itself, but must look to the future.

It is a real revolution compared to the past, when cathedrals were built in the desert. The message of Olympic Agenda 2020 is clear, even if at the beginning it was somewhat indigestible for some conservative fringes.

The Milano Cortina 2026 Organising Committee has carefully studied the details to make the most of the existing facilities, building on the experience of Torino 2006.

Alpine skiing will take place in two highly, technically qualified locations: Bormio in Lombardia and Cortina in Veneto, both of which have a long history of organisational excellence with World Championships and World Cup stages under their belts.

Bormio will be the Olympic stage for the men’s competitions. The Stelvio downhill slope is known as one of the most technical and demanding slopes of the whole Circo Bianco. Only a champion can win on a similar downhill as history has shown.

Cortina was back in the World Cup only 20 years after the 1956 Winter Games with a women’s slalom in 1976, won by the Swiss champion Lise-Marie Morerod, and has since become one of the blue riband events of the women’s World Cup. The technical value of all races is assured.

Predazzo

The cross-country skiing competitions will take place in Tesero in Trentino, which has already been the site of World Championships and World Cup competitions. So, in this case the Games will again be part of an already tested context. The environment is perfect and the tradition is solid. The ski jumping will be in Predazzo, which will also host the Nordic combined event that will end with the cross-country race in Tesero.

The headquarters for snowboard and freestyle skiing events will be Livigno in Valtellina, a young, sparkling environment that is perfect for these disciplines.

Anterselva is the ideal venue for biathlon, where the sport is almost a religion. Here, the World Championships and World Cup races are at home and in the valley this spectacular sport is followed by everyone.

Cortina will refurbish its Olympic venue of 1956 for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, and thus inaugurate a new tradition, which has had great champions in the past. Baselga di Pinè is the proposed location for speed skating because there is an outdoor track, but feasibility studies are being carried out.

Milano will be the ice capital. Figure skating, short track speed skating and ice hockey will certainly attract a huge audience. It will be a continuous party. Curling will take place in the renovated 1956 Olympic Stadium, an elegant and sophisticated setting.

Ski mounteneering

Ski mountaineering will make its Olympic Winter Games debut in Bormio. Italy has a rich tradition in this particular discipline, so it will be interesting to follow the sport’s debut.

With four years to go we can say that the preparations are at a good level. Milano Cortina is on track.

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