— Published 20 April 2023

For the 2026 Winter Games, Milan is gaining speed

The soap opera is over. It was high time. The organizers of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games ticked a new box on Wednesday 19 April. The last one on the map: the speed skating ice ring.

Without any real surprise, it will be installed temporarily at the Fiera Milano (photo above), a huge exhibition center located in the city of Milan. The capital of Lombardy thus inherits an additional discipline. It will not complain about it.

The decision was taken unanimously by the members of the board of directors of the Foundation of the Games of Milan-Cortina 2026, the organizing committee chaired by Giovanni Malago. It sends back into the oblivion of history the other file in contention for the hosting of the Olympic speed skating competitions, carried by the city of Turin and its mayor, Stefano Lo Russo.

The capital of Piedmont proposed to host the speed ring at the Oval Lingotto, the indoor complex built for the Winter Games in 2006. The project had the advantage of reintegrating the city of Turin into the Olympic system, which had definitively left in September 2018, in the middle of the bidding phase, by decision of its municipal team, then led by Chiara Appendino, member of the 5-Star Movement.

But the Turin option was not without effect on the budget of the Games, especially in terms of transport and security. Above all, it would have imposed a serious upgrade of the facilities, the Oval of Lingotto not having been used for skating competitions since the Winter Games in 2006.

The Italian organizers chose a more low-cost route. The 400 m speed ring installed at the Fiera Milano will be only temporary. Financed by private funds and equipped with stands that can accommodate up to 6,500 spectators, it will be dismantled after the end of the Winter Games in 2026. The equipment will be added to two other pillars of the Milan-Cortina 2026 system, the main press center (MPC) and the broadcasters’ center (IBC), already planned at the Fiera Milano.

As a reminder, the bid for Milan-Cortina 2026 was to hold the big track speed skating competitions on the outdoor oval in Baselga di Piné, a municipality in the Trento region between Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. A roof was to cover the equipment to ensure optimal conditions. Initial announced cost: $54 million. Estimated final cost: at least 50% more. Too expensive and too risky, the IOC decided.

Coincidence or not, the last episode of the long soap opera of the speed ring ended this week in the presence of Thomas Bach. The IOC President is visiting Italy. On Wednesday, April 19, he met with the governor of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, at the Palazzo Lombardia in Milan. His visit will continue this Thursday in Rome. Thomas Bach and Giovanni Malago, the president of Milan-Cortina 2026 and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), will be received by Giorgia Meloni, the Italian Prime Minister.

On the agenda: the Winter Games and more Winter Games. The issue has become very political in Italy. The national media report that a meeting dedicated to the event is now organized every two weeks. Around the table, a solid contingent of ministers and secretaries of state, proof of the will of the government to take back in hands the file.