Preparations for Cortina 2026 are speeding up. IOC MEDIA

As athletes around the world turn their attention to qualifying, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Milan Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games met in the Veneto region to discuss the preparations for hosting the event in less than two years' time.

As most of the venues are existing or temporary, the Commission had the opportunity to visit those that will welcome the world's best athletes to Cortina d'Ampezzo in 2026. 

These included the iconic Olympia delle Tofane, which will host the women's Alpine Skiing, as well as Para Skiing and Snowboarding events çand the Cortina Olympic Stadium, an iconic venue from the 1956 Games, which will host the Olympic curling and Paralympic wheelchair curling events at the Milano Cortina 2026 Games. Just last month, these two venues hosted the city's traditional skiing Women's World Cup and a Curling World Tour event featuring local hero and Olympic champion Stefania Constantini respectively, providing a glimpse of the excitement and anticipation surrounding the upcoming Games. 

The annual Biathlon World Cup was also held in nearby Antholz/Anterselva in January, at the same venue that will host the sport at Milano Cortina 2026. These events further demonstrated the project's alignment with the recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020 to make the best use of existing venues and expertise.

100 skiers celebrate 100 years of Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo. IOC MEDIA
100 skiers celebrate 100 years of Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo. IOC MEDIA

Existing expertise will be leveraged by the Organising Committee through the recent key partnership agreements with local Event Delivery Entities that have successfully delivered some of these competitions over many years. These 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-level international sporting events at the service of the Games. 

Among those looking forward to the trip to Italy are athletes from the North American National Hockey League (NHL). The confirmation of their participation in the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games was hailed as a significant milestone after missing out on the last two Games in Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022. The last edition with NHL players was Sochi 2014, where Canada won its ninth and last gold medal. 

The Coordination Commission, which was joined by the presidents and general secretaries of all the International Winter Sports Federations and representatives of the National Olympic Committees in the Veneto capital, Venice, also welcomed the updates to the Master Plan for the Games, following last year's confirmation of the speed skating and ice hockey venues in Milan.

The Cortina Olympic Stadium in a picture taken in October 2023. IOC MEDIA
The Cortina Olympic Stadium in a picture taken in October 2023. IOC MEDIA

Coordination Commission Chair, Kristin Kloster, said: "All of this symbolises our new approach to delivery, with Milano Cortina 2026 being the first Winter Games to be organised entirely under the New Norm reforms of the Olympic Agenda 2030. We have had the opportunity to experience the 'new Italian spirit' of the Organising Committee, which is driving the anticipation for these Games." 

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

Milano Cortina 2026 President Giovanni Malagò commented: "The incredible results achieved by the young athletes of the Italian team at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon in January have created a buzz around Milano Cortina 2026. Their success, which saw them win more gold medals at these Youth Games than any other national team has managed at a previous edition, has left most of them dreaming of competing on home soil in less than two years' time." 

"This positive feeling has been sustained by a series of engagement activities that have involved millions of people across Italy during the last two years of celebrations. These activities were crowned by the introduction of our Olympic and Paralympic mascots on stage at the Sanremo Music Festival, which was watched by 13 million spectators," he concluded.

Kristin Kloster is the Coordination Commission Chair, Kristin Kloster of Milano-Cortina 2026. INSTAGRAM
Kristin Kloster is the Coordination Commission Chair, Kristin Kloster of Milano-Cortina 2026. INSTAGRAM

The tour of the venues in Cortina also included the site of the temporary Olympic Village and the Eugenio Monti Sliding Centre from the 1956 Olympic Winter Games, where a new track will be built 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 timeframe and stressed that the safety of athletes is paramount. Challenges remain regarding the viability of the sliding track legacy, while the need to develop a Plan B was also underlined. 

The new resources will also closely monitor the progress of the construction of the Livigno Snow Park, the Predazzo and Cortina Villages and the Palaitalia Santa Giulia for ice hockey. All of these projects are on a very tight schedule and cannot be delayed. 

With thousands of athletes taking part in qualifying events over the next few months and field of play testing to begin by the end of the year, preparations for the Games 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.