— Published 3 October 2023

For Milan-Cortina 2026, all avenues are being explored

The troubles continue for the organizers of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games. With 857 days and a handful of hours to go until the opening ceremony – just over 28 months away – one issue remains marked by a huge question mark. It’s not the smallest one, since it concerns the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track.

Since the start of preparations in 2019, the Olympic site dedicated to the three disciplines has been the subject of an intense tug-of-war between the IOC and the organizing committee. The Italians argued for a complete renovation of the historic Eugenio Monti track, used for the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The IOC considered the project unrealistic, as it was too costly. But the Olympic body finally gave in, in the spring of 2021.

The only major problem is that construction work has not yet begun. And doubts are mounting.

The first blow to the Italian organizers was the absence of any response to the call for tenders launched to renovate the track. According to the national media, no company likely to embark on such an adventure responded.

Second problem: rising costs. Since the first studies were carried out, the presumed cost of the project has almost doubled. It now stands at 80 million euros. An estimate that could go even higher. With the Games less than three years away, time is running out. There is even talk in Italy that the project may not be completed in time under the current schedule.

The final obstacle standing in the way of the organizing committee is the increasingly aggressive political opposition. This opposition is led by the Italian Green Party.

Determined to bury a project they deem to be out of step with the environmental commitments of Milan-Cortina 2026, its elected representatives have tabled a motion in the Chamber of Deputies asking the government to accept the Plan B proposed by the mayor of the Austrian town of Innsbruck: bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events on the Igls track.

Before going to the vote, the motion was amended to give it a more vague appearance. The government is now asked to study all possible options to find an alternative to the Eugenio Monti runway in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The motion was overwhelmingly approved.

With less than 900 days to go before the Games, the Italian organizers are faced with a blank page. By continuing to play the history card with the Cortina option, they risk a soaring budget, opposition from environmental parties and organizations, and uncertainty over the construction schedule.

The opposite scenario, presumed to be less costly, would send bobsledders, luge athletes and skeleton specialists to enjoy their Olympic experience in a neighboring country. In Austria, or even Switzerland, where the Saint-Moritz option has not been ruled out. The map of venues would once again be reviewed and corrected.

In either case, they are not the decision-makers. The final say is not entirely theirs, but in the hands of the authorities.

Giovanni Malagò, President of the Organizing Committee – and of the Italian Olympic Committee – makes no secret of the fact: the uncertainty is growing ever more worrying. As he confided to the media on Monday, October 2, on the sidelines of the presentation of the future athletes’ village in Milan: “We are not in charge of the construction of the Olympic facilities, but we are waiting with great impatience for an answer – in a few days at the latest, I hope – from those responsible for the site. We won the 2026 Winter Games with a bid that included bobsleigh, skeleton and luge in Cortina. But we are evaluating every other alternative, because our job remains to find the best solution.

According to several sources in Italy, a very unexpected option is even on the table: using the track from the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, a facility built for the Olympic event in the Yanqing district.