— Published 9 November 2022

Andrea Varnier, the new boss of Milan-Cortina 2026

The end of a long wait? No doubt. According to the Italian media, the name of the director general of the organising committee for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan-Cortina should be known later today. Or, at the latest, by the end of the week.

Surprisingly, the future number 2 of the Italian project has never appeared in the long list of names mentioned or evoked in recent weeks. The chosen one would be Andrea Varnier (pictured above), 58 years old, current general manager of Costa Edutainment Spa, a subsidiary of the Costa group in charge of the management of the main aquariums and theme parks in Italy.

In the recent past, the Verona native has headed Filmmaster Productions, a Rome-based video production company known for its work on Olympic ceremonies and torch relays. In 2020, he also did a stint with Richard Attias & Associates.

His name is said to have finally come out of the hat of the new Minister for Youth and Sport, Andrea Abodi. He has even revealed it to the members of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Foundation. But the final decision rests with the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, who is expected to make the formal appointment. She is expected to make the appointment on Wednesday 9 November.

Andrea Varnier will take his place in the office left vacant since last August by Vincenzo Novari, the former director general, who was pushed out when the political authorities took over the Milan-Cortina 2026 project.

Over the last few weeks, the names of the candidates for the post of general manager have been mentioned in the media. Michele Uva, UEFA’s director of football and CSR, has been mentioned. Paolo Scaroni, the president of AC Milan, has also been mentioned.

More recently, two other alleged favourites have been rumoured: Letizia Moratti, the former mayor of Milan, and Alessandro Araimo, the director for Southern Europe of the American group Discovery.

According to Andrea Abodi, Andrea Varnier’s profile would have stood out because of his Olympic experience – he worked at the 2006 Turin Winter Games as director of image and events, before becoming a consultant for the IOC on the planning of the Games and ceremonies – and a certain political neutrality. The Italian minister explained earlier this week: “I tried to identify a profile that is not the best in absolute terms, but the best for this position in the context of the moment, because the Olympic event requires in-depth knowledge.”

In other news from Italy, which could also give a boost to preparations for the 2026 Winter Games, the Trentino regional authorities have given the green light to the construction of a roof over the speed skating oval in Baselga di Piné, a town of 5,000 souls located about ten kilometres from Trento.

The question of the speed skating ring had still not been definitively settled by the organising committee. It had even been envisaged that the events would be held at the indoor ice rink in Turin.

With this construction, the cost of which is announced at 50 million euros, the organisers have removed a thorn from their side. They can now meet the requirements of the International Skating Federation (ISU) for an indoor facility. Above all, they are staying within their budget.

The cost of the work will not be charged to Milan-Cortina 2026, as the city of Baselga di Piné will pay for the entire cost as part of a plan to modernise the ice ring, which was used for the 1995 world championships.

The design of the roof will be led by Italian architect Alessandro Zoppini, who has already designed the speed skating venue for the Turin 2006, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.