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Winter Olympics: return to the Alps in 2026?

In the footsteps of Turin: Milan and Cortina bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. (c) CIPRA Italia, Francesco Pastorelli

In early January 2019 the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo submitted a joint bid, facing off with Stockholm in Sweden in the race to host the Winter Olympics. The IOC will make its decision in June.

It is highly likely that the 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in the Alps or, more precisely, partly in the Alps and partly in a major city in the Po Valley: this is because the odds have recently shortened on the decision to host the 25th edition of the games being made in favour of the alliance of Milan and Cortina, after the Alpine towns of Sion in Switzerland and Graz and Innsbruck, both in Austria, as well as Sapporo in Japan and Calgary in Canada all pulled out. The city authorities in Stockholm, the last remaining challenger, have also withdrawn their support. Thus, for lack of any alternative, the alliance of the city of Milan and the Dolomites resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo is preparing to stage the Winter Olympics. The fact that some places have withdrawn their applications and that the residents of Innsbruck, Sion and Calgary have all vociferously voted to reject the candidacies of their respective cities should also give pause for thought to those on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who are still promoting a grandiose model of the Olympic Games that is no longer tolerable on either cost or environmental grounds.

According to their application, sustainability will be the order of the day in Milan and Cortina, with the games providing an enormous positive impact for the region, all at low cost. Unfortunately, however, experience shows that the final accounts can only be settled after the event. The last time the Winter Olympics were held in the Alps, in 2006 in Turin, the costs set out in the original application were estimated at 500 million euros. The final sum – taking account of organisation, infrastructure construction and a number of “sporting white elephants” – in fact totalled over three billion euros. The present dual-track application, when compared to the others, nevertheless has perhaps one positive aspect: the tenders for the construction projects will be spread out over a wide area and not focus simply on one mountain region. Certain sports facilities already exist, although they will have to be upgraded or rebuilt, such as the bobsleigh track at Cortina d’Ampezzo. In addition to potential cost overruns, however, it is the inevitable infrastructure projects, e.g. reservoirs for artificial snow-making, roads, car parking and Olympic villages that are all giving cause for concern, especially in the mountainous areas of the Dolomites and the Valtellina. All these schemes would have significant effects on the environment.

Francesco Pastorelli, Director of CIPRA Italy, states: “For years now CIPRA has been calling for the IOC to rethink how the Winter Olympics are staged. We do not believe that the Alpine region is suitable for hosting the Games in the way they are conceived by the IOC”.

 

Sources and further information:

https://www.cipra.org/en/dossiers/the-winter-olympics, https://www.milanocortina2026.coni.it/images/CandidatureFile_MilanoCortina2026_eng.pdf, https://www.lastampa.it/2019/01/11/sport/olimpiadi-invernali-il-dossier-milanocortina-al-cio-sfida-a-stoccolma-yba6xydTZ7LKjmPob0ifOJ/pagina.html (it)