2026 Winter Olympics Chief Talks Plans and Progress

The floor-to-ceiling home windows in Andrea Varnier’s Forty fourth-floor workplace provide a sweeping view of Milan and a few of the mountains that may host the 2026 Winter Olympics, however Varnier jokes that the panorama shouldn’t be for him. He is nearly by no means on this workplace, he admits. He not often makes use of the desk. There is simply no time to take a seat nonetheless, he says with a shrug.

The Milan-Cortina Winter Games are nonetheless nearly three years away. But Varnier, a veteran of earlier Olympics in Turin, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, is aware of higher than most how briskly these years will go. He additionally is aware of how a lot work there may be left to do.

What Milan-Cortina organizers and the International Olympic Committee are planning for 2026 is essentially the most sprawling Winter Games in historical past: determine skating and ice hockey in Milan, the cosmopolitan hub of Italy’s north; freestyle snowboarding and snowboarding in Livigno, near the Swiss border; biathlon in Anterselva, a German-speaking area within the shadow of Austria; and curling, bobsled and Alpine snowboarding in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the location of the 1956 Winter Games.

The excellent news? About 90 p.c of the competitors venues for the Games exist already, Olympic officers mentioned. The dangerous? At least two main parts, the Olympic Village and the hockey enviornment, are nonetheless within the earliest phases of building, and greater tasks like highways and rail hyperlinks are out of the organizers’ management.

In an interview final month within the workplace he not often makes use of, Varnier, who took on the chief government position final November, mentioned managing an occasion unfold over 8,500 sq. miles; how Italy’s mannequin is perhaps the way forward for the Olympics; and what retains him up at night time.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

The IOC has lately embraced this new sort of sprawling Olympics. Torino was massive. Vancouver was massive. Beijing was massive. But that is greater?

This is unquestionably greater.

And so that you’re proposing competitors clusters moderately than a single web site?

We have four-slash-five of these. Plus, a closing ceremony within the Roman amphitheater in Verona. Which provides an additional fascinating merchandise, however after all additionally an additional complication. But the concept of ​​the Winter Games is that they have to be unfold out as a result of there isn’t a mountain metropolis or mountain village that’s ready these days to maintain the Games.

That’s why you want Milan.

You want the town. So it is at all times a metropolis someplace. And a mountain shut sufficient to that. It will get farther and farther. So Torino. Then Vancouver. And then Beijing. Here it is totally different. It’s a totally totally different idea. The concept right here is to, to begin with, go the place the infrastructure and the expertise is. So that is the way in which it was chosen.

So there may be Milan, which is essentially the most modern metropolis we have now on this nation, however the place there may be not a particular custom for winter sports activities. But it is Milan. And then we go after all to Cortina, with its historical past and its expertise in Alpine snowboarding. They have a really sturdy custom in curling. They have an unbelievable historical past in bobsleigh and the sliding sports activities. Then we go to Anterselva: That’s top-of-the-line, greatest acknowledged websites for biathlon on the earth. Then we have now Val di Fiemme, the place Nordic sports activities are a really longstanding custom. Several editions of world championships. So there may be already the infrastructure. Yes, we have now to modernize. But it is already there, so we do not have to construct.

The bulk of the competitors venues exist already, which can save on funds and time. But how do you join all this stuff?

It is vital that we perceive that there’s a new system. Because if this idea works, it should imply extra alternatives for different nations to host the Games. So transportation, for instance: We will do in-cluster transportation, and then we’ll advocate using public transportation between clusters as a lot as attainable.

We’re attempting to rationalize your entire system for these Games, and hopefully to depart as a legacy for future potential organizing committees or candidate cities, that they will consider the Games in a bigger space, to contain a bigger piece of the inhabitants, to make use of current infrastructure.

Is that as a result of the IOC cannot ask cities or nations to spend $50 billion, as Russia did for the Sochi Games? Because no one would need to host?

The threat is that no one will do the Games in Europe anymore. The Winter Games. The Summer Games is a unique story. And Europe, in spite of everything, it is the guts of winter sports activities. I imply, with all due respect to everyone: It was born right here, and the Alps are the Alps.

The Games should go all over the place, and to as many nations as attainable. But if we do not discover a totally different system, in Europe it will likely be extraordinarily tough. Because, I imply, this nation remains to be a G7 nation, and in case you can’t afford the Games, then who can afford to host the Games?

When you consider organising experiences elsewhere for individuals, it is nearly as in case you’re operating a number of video games without delay.

In a method, sure. But the precept that we wish is that, to begin with, it is the identical thread that connects every part and the expertise that you simply dwell. Of course, the sports activities are totally different, however they’re anyway.

How is the connection with the IOC? After Pyeongchang and Beijing, they have to be fairly comfy to be again on what’s acquainted floor for them.

I can’t reply on behalf of the IOC, however it’s a nice consolation for us as an organizing committee, and I’m certain for them. They are very concerned as a result of they see us as a possibility for optimization of the Winter Games. Because a few of the issues that we’ll begin right here could change into a brand new norm for the long run.

What retains you up at night time?

Oh, so many issues. But largely that point is brief. We should recuperate a few of the time that was misplaced.

You have to know that this organizing committee began in January 2020, as a result of the project of the Games was in June 2019, and this nation was absolutely closed for 3 and a half months, mainly. And it was very tough to begin a company like this in such a brand new method. And so the pandemic continued and then when it completed the struggle began, so it was a tough time. Now we do not have excuses anymore.

Another problem is to seek out the businesses to cowl that a part of the funds that must be coated by home companions. And you can not contain companions, on the related value, only for the final six months. So that is for me essentially the most crucial factor.

I are inclined to sleep, however that worries me: time and cash.

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