Italy’s Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo were awarded the 2026 Winter Games four years ago. The original plan called for reusing the Eugenio Monti facility for the downhill track events, Xinhua reports.
The Eugenio Monti track was built in 1923, and it was used in the 1956 Winter Olympics hosted by Cortina d’Ampezzo as well as in nine world championships, the most recent of which was in 1999. However, the track was closed in 2008 amid rising maintenance costs.
Italy’s bid to host the 2026 Games included an estimated 50 million euros (53 million U.S. dollars) to update the track. But the July 31 deadline for bids came and went without any qualifying bids submitted amid reported cost estimates in the range of 93 million to 120 million euros (99 million to 127 million U.S. dollars).
The comprehensive budget for the Games has more than doubled to 4 billion euros (4.2 billion U.S. dollars) since the plans began.
On Monday, it was revealed at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Mumbai, India that officials were planning to move the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton competitions across the Italian border to either Innsbruck, Austria (located around 160 kilometers from Cortina d’Ampezzo) or in St. Moritz, Switzerland (located around 330 kilometers away).
That development sparked debate in Italy. On Wednesday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani called for the events to be held in Cesana Pariol, around 240 kilometers west of Milan and near the Italian industrial capital of Turin. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, but the track built then for an estimated 90 million euros (95 million U.S. dollars) was nearly completely dismantled in 2012.
“Italy cannot in any way give up being the venue for all the Olympic races as stated in the dossier for the candidacy,” Tajani said on social media. “I prefer Cesana to Innsbruck and St. Moritz.”
The idea of hosting the sliding events in Cesana Pariol gained steam on Thursday when Paolo Zangrillo, Italy’s Minister for Public Administration, said he supported the idea. News reports said that Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala said he would back the plan for Cesana Pariol if it “was the plan that cost the least and had the smallest environmental impact.”
Meanwhile, Luca Zaia, president of the region of Veneto where Cortina d’Ampezzo is located, said that if the sliding events were moved from Cortina d’Ampezzo, the region should be compensated by moving both the opening and closing ceremonies to the Verona Arena, which has a capacity of around 15,000 people. The current plans are for Milan’s San Siro Stadium, which can hold around 75,000 spectators, to host the opening ceremony while the closing event will be held in the Verona Arena.
However, the use of the facility in Piedmont still faces obstacles. A feasibility study for the Cesana Pariol site would have to be carried out, and it would have to be approved by Italian and IOC officials. Additionally, it is not clear whether reconstructing the track at Cesana Pariol would cost less than updating the one at Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The 2026 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place from Feb. 6-22.