Milan-Cortina will host the 2026 Winter Games after beating Swedish rival Stockholm-Are in a vote of the International Olympic Committee’s members in Lausanne on Monday.
The Italian bid won by 47 votes to 34, with one abstention, and it will now also host the 2026 Winter Paralympics.
“Congratulations to Milan-Cortina,” said IOC president Thomas Bach.
“We can look forward to outstanding and sustainable Olympic Winter Games in a traditional winter sports country. The passion and knowledge of Italian fans, together with experienced venue operators, will create the perfect atmosphere for the best athletes in the world.”
It was Bach who opened the envelope containing the winner’s name and his announcement prompted wild celebrations from the Italian bidding team and a chant of “Italia, Italia, Italia”.
The prime ministers of both countries, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Sweden’s Stefan Lofven, had both come to Lausanne to make final pitches but with Lofven having to leave early to get to Sweden’s game against Canada in Paris at the Women’s World Cup, it was left to a member of his government to congratulate the winners but remind them that Sweden had beaten Italy in a play-off for Russia 2018, so the score was now “1-1”.
Stockholm-Are had been the initial favourite, largely because Sweden is the only major winter sports nation not to have hosted a Winter Games and Italy’s Turin staged the Games in 2006, but Milan-Cortina surged ahead in recent months and stayed there, despite a last-minute wobble caused by concerns over the Italian economy.
And it was money that ultimately decided this contest, although not in any underhand way, as the IOC’s members clearly felt they could not risk giving the prize to a city or country that refused to financially guarantee the Games’ costs, which was Stockholm-Are’s big problem.
Apart from that, there was very little to separate these bids – the only two left from a field that had narrowed from seven early runners as concerns about budgets, public opposition and white elephants once again dramatically limited the IOC’s options.
For example, both bids were budgeting for a Games that would cost about £1.2billion, compared to the £40billion that Russia spent on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
As the double-billed names of the bids suggest, the remaining candidates were proposing to stage the ceremonies and some events in the city but a large part of the sporting programme elsewhere.
In Stockholm’s case this meant the Swedish resort of Are for most of the skiing and snowboarding but the Latvian winter sport centres of Falun for ski jumping and Sigulda for the sliding events.
While Milan’s Games will actually be an Olympics for Italy’s alpine north, with the opening ceremony at the San Siro, men’s skiing in Bormio and women’s skiing in Cortina, which hosted the Games by itself in 1956.
Spreading an Olympics so thinly would once have hugely counted against a bid but the days of lavish spending on new venues and mega-budgets are now over, and the fact that both options were almost entirely based on existing venues or planned projects was a positive in the eyes of the IOC, even if that risks dissipating what makes a Games in one location so special.