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Winter sports season excitement highlighted as Milano Cortina 2026 preparations accelerate

MELBOURNE: As athletes across the world turn their attention to qualification, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 gathered in the Veneto region to discuss preparations to host the best winter sports athletes in Northern Italy in less than two years’ time.

As the majority of venues are existing or temporary, the Commission had the opportunity to visit some of those that will welcome the world’s top athletes in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026. This included the iconic Olympia delle Tofane, which will host the women’s Alpine skiing, as well as Para skiing and snowboarding; and the Cortina Olympic Stadium, an iconic venue from the 1956 Games where the Olympic curling and Paralympic wheelchair curling competitions will take place at the Milano Cortina 2026 Games.

Just last month, these two venues hosted, respectively, the town’s traditional skiing Women’s World Cup and a curling world tour event that included local hero and Olympic champion Stefania Constantini, providing a glimpse into the excitement and anticipation surrounding the upcoming Games.

The yearly Biathlon World Cup in Antholz/Anterselva nearby was also held in January, at the same venue that will host the sport at Milano Cortina 2026. These events offered yet another demonstration of the project’s alignment with the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations to make the most of existing venues and expertise.

The existing expertise will be leveraged by the Organising Committee through the recent key partnership agreements with locally based Event Delivery Entities that have successfully organised some of these competitions over many years. They include the Cortina Foundation, the Antholz/Anterselva Biathlon World Cup Committee, the Val di Fiemme Nordic Ski Committee and the Bormio Foundation.

After meeting most of these organisations during the visit, the Commission noted that these collaborations will formally put all this experience in hosting top-tier international sporting events at the service of the Games.

Some of those looking forward to travelling to Italy are National Hockey League athletes. The confirmation that they will participate in the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 was celebrated as a significant milestone, ensuring top-tier competition across all sports.

In addition, the Coordination Commission, which was joined at the meetings in Veneto’s capital city of Venice by the presidents and secretaries general of all the International Winter Sports Federations and several representatives from National Olympic Committees, also welcomed the updates on the Games masterplan, following last year’s confirmation of venues for speed skating and ice hockey in Milan.

Reflecting on the visit, the Chair of the Coordination Commission, Kristin Kloster, said: “All of this symbolises our new approach to delivery, with Milano Cortina 2026 being the first Winter Games organised entirely under Olympic Agenda 2020’s New Norm reforms. We had the opportunity to experience the Organising Committee’s ‘new Italian spirit’, which is driving anticipation for these Games.

As we return to the Italian Alps, in this case the stunning Dolomites, 20 years after Turin 2006, the connection with some of winter sports’ most iconic venues and one of the world’s most renowned cultural hubs, in Milan, will provide an ideal canvas for spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”

Milano Cortina 2026 President Giovanni Malagò added: “The incredible results achieved by the young athletes of the Italian team at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon in January have created excitement around Milano Cortina 2026.

Their success, winning more gold medals at these Youth Games than any national team has managed at a previous edition, has had most of them dreaming of competing at home in less than two years. This positive feeling was carried on by a series of engagement activities that have involved millions of people throughout Italy during the recent two-years-to-go celebrations . These activities were crowned by the launch of our Olympic and Paralympic mascots on the stage of the Sanremo music festival, which was watched by 13 million spectators.”

The venue tour in Cortina also included the location where a temporary Olympic Village will be built, as well as the site of the Eugenio Monti sliding centre from the Olympic Winter Games 1956, where a track is planned to be newly developed to host the Olympic bobsleigh, skeleton and luge events in 2026.

The Commission reiterated the IOC’s concerns about the delivery of this project within the required timeline, underlining that the primary focus is on athlete safety. Challenges regarding the viability of the sliding track’s legacy also remain, while the request for the development of a plan B was also emphasised.

In addition, new resources will also closely monitor the construction progress in Livigno Snow Park, Predazzo and Cortina Villages and Palaitalia Santa Giulia for ice hockey. All these projects are facing very challenging timelines and cannot be delayed.

With thousands of athletes taking part in qualification events over the coming months and field of play testing to start by the end of the year, Games preparations will now intensify to meet the high expectations created by the winter sports tradition and majestic scenery of the Italian Alps, and the vibrant lifestyle of Milan.

The Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 are scheduled to take place from 6 to 22 February, followed by the Paralympic Winter Games from 6 to 15 March.

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