Italy minister sounds alarm on delays ahead of 2026 Winter Olympics

Milan: Italian Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said on Friday he was increasingly worried about delays in preparations for the 2026 Winter Olympics, which are to be held in Milan and the Alpine town of Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The two venues were officially named as the 2026 Winter Olympic hosts almost five years ago, in June 2019.

“There are two years left, time is running out terribly fast, and it’s becoming almost impossible to respect the schedule,” Giorgetti was quoted as saying by ANSA and other Italian news agencies at an event in Sondrio, north of Milan.

Giorgetti said he was “beginning to regret” having backed Italy’s bid for the Olympics, though he later backtracked on that comment, saying it was a joke.

“Let’s see what we can do to avoid missing this historic opportunity,” he said, adding that he was issuing “a last wake-up call”.

On Friday the government said it had signed a deal with a construction firm to build a sliding track in Cortina, aiming to resolve a long-running area of delay and uncertainty.

The International Olympic Committee, however, said it had “strong concerns” over the planned new track, having repeatedly urged 2026 Games organisers to use existing sliding centres in other countries.

The IOC is eager to keep Games’ costs low and avoid construction of venues that will get little or no use after the Olympics. Neighbouring France, Switzerland and Austria have sliding centres, as does Germany.

“The IOC has strong concerns about the delivery of this project by the required deadline of March 2025, which is necessary to validate and homologate the track, as no sliding track has ever been completed in such a short timeframe,” an IOC spokesperson said.

“This concern is shared by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation and the International Luge Federation.”

The IOC said it had asked organisers to come up with a Plan B in case of any delay, to make sure the sliding competitions for the Games can go ahead.

“The IOC firmly believes that the existing number of sliding centres, globally, is sufficient for the current number of athletes and competitions in the sports of bobsleigh, luge and skeleton,” the spokesperson said. “Furthermore…only existing and already-operating tracks should be considered due to the very tight timeline remaining.”

The Olympic Games are an opportunity for countries to boost their image and local economies, but they also impose a burden on public finances.

According to a study by Britain’s Oxford University in 2020, since 1960 the Games have overspent their budgets by an average of 172 per cent.

In 2012, when Italy was struggling with a debt crisis, Mario Monti’s government refused to nominate Rome for the 2020 Olympics in order not to undermine fragile state finances.