Winter Olympics return to Italy in sprawling Milano-Cortina event

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Milan (AFP) – After two editions in Asia, the Winter Olympics return to Europe and Italy in 2026, in a huge event spread over hundreds of kilometers.

Milan and Cortina D’Ampezzo’s joint bid saw Swedish pair Stockholm and Are in 2019 bring the Winter Games back to Turin, two decades after they were last held there.

Above all, these will be the first Winter Olympics co-hosted by two cities.

It won’t be an easy task as Milan and Cortina are in two different regions – Lombardy and Veneto – and separated by around 400 kilometers (250 miles), or a five-hour drive.

The distance is such that when skier Sofia Goggia crashed in Cortina on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, she had to be airlifted to Milan for tests on her knee injury.

Federica Brignone, a two-time alpine skiing medalist at the Beijing Olympics, expressed concern that the large distances involved “won’t be good for the Olympic spirit” in what will likely be the last Games for the player 31 years old.

Cortina will host the event for the first time in 70 years and the 2026 Games will be held in a winter sports centre.

Cortina d’Ampezzo regularly hosts World Cup alpine ski races Jure MAKOVEC AFP

Cortina in the Italian Dolomites and Bormio – one of four event “clusters” – regularly host the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

Organizers have sought to make the most of existing sports infrastructure to limit the economic and environmental impact for which the Winter Games are often criticized.

The Beijing Olympics were in the spotlight for the massive use of artificial snow and the construction of alpine skiing facilities in a drought-stricken region north of Beijing.

The Games before that, the 2018 event in Pyeongchang, South Korea, were beset by freezing cold.

The 2026 Opening Ceremony will be held at Milan’s iconic San Siro stadium, which will soon be 100 years old when the Games begin.

It is set to eventually be demolished as Serie A football clubs AC Milan and Inter Milan plan a new stadium on the same site on the western outskirts of the city.

The two clubs have announced ‘The Cathedral’ designed by the firm Populous, who designed the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London.

Few new sites

Italian media report that matches won’t be played there until 2027, and on Friday Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said it would be the current arena, complete with the distinctive concrete structure that was added when it was built. latest redesign, which will host the opening ceremony.

“I think the opening ceremony will take place at the current San Siro because I know how long it takes to build a new stadium and I don’t think it will be finished,” Sala told reporters during the interview. a press conference before the transfer.

Organizers say the only new venues to be built for 2026 had already been planned independently of the Games – the Arena PalaItalia ice hockey venue and the Olympic Village in Milan, which will later be converted into student accommodation.

The Beijing Olympics alpine skiing venue in Yanqing sparked controversy as it was located in an area that often suffers from drought
The Beijing Olympics alpine skiing venue in Yanqing sparked controversy as it was located in an area that often suffers from drought DIMITAR DILKOFF AFP

However, some infrastructure is strained, notably the Cortina bobsleigh track.

The Veneto region has pledged to renovate the historic Eugenio Monti track, abandoned since 2008, at a cost of around 60 million euros ($67.9 million).

But the work has been slammed by CIPRA, an international NGO collective that aims to protect the Alps, which has argued for “cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternatives”, such as relocating events to Innsbruck in Austria. , two and a half hours from Cortina.

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