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Point of view: the excessive character of the Olympics

May 04, 2022 / Vanda Bonardo, CIPRA Italy
High construction costs, unused sports facilities, environmentally damaging large-scale projects: loud criticism continues to surround the staging of the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina/I. We must ask whether such sporting events still have a place in the Alps, says Vanda Bonardo, President of CIPRA Italy.
Image caption:
Vanda Bonardo, President CIPRA Italy. (c) Stefano Ceretti

A new bobsleigh track is being built in Cortina/I for the 2026 Olympic Games. The cost is 61 million euros, but this figure is sure to rise. Enormous bobsleigh runs and ski jumping facilities are designed for the competitions but are usually abandoned after the Games. This is entirely predictable, as very few people participate in these sports. Although the IOC recommends using existing facilities, regional and local institutions appear desperate to build new ones.

The Olympics also bring other problems. It is a great opportunity for local authorities, who are eager to dust off projects of various kinds. Most of them involve new road infrastructure projects, only a few of which will benefit local communities. But that’s not all: the Veneto region recently commissioned a project to create possible ski links between the Cortina – Civetta – Alta Badia ski areas. Such construction projects will have an extremely high environmental impact in areas of great natural beauty. They are falsely presented as a form of sustainable mobility because, although considered “connected”, they are not at all suitable for the Games.

In faraway Beijing, a completely artificial Olympics was sold as green. There is also a real danger that the 2026 Olympics will showcase a development model that is no longer sustainable in a sensitive mountain area like the Alps. CIPRA Italy, together with the other associations and committees, will do everything it can to oppose the absurdity of these plans. Equally, we need a European debate on the value and importance of these major events. At the very least, the recommendations of the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 – which are currently not being followed – must become binding rules to permit candidacies in the first place. Otherwise, we should ask ourselves whether it still makes sense to hold such sporting events in the mountains in an era of climate crisis – or is it time to put an end to an exciting but now anachronistic tradition?