Milano-Cortina route: work begins despite opposition. MILANO-CORTINA 2026

The International Olympic Committee has reiterated that the bobsleigh track being built by Italy for the 2026 Winter Olympics must be ready by March 2025, despite strong opposition, and that there will be "no compromises."

Italy's efforts to rebuild the Cortina bobsleigh track for the 2026 Winter Olympics, to be held in the town and Milan, are progressing despite disagreements and a recommendation against it from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

To avoid construction costs and potential white elephant venues, the IOC wanted Italy to use an existing track in another country, with two nearby options in Switzerland or Austria, among others further away.

As well as a matter of national pride that would make the conservative coalition government of Giorgia Meloni the first government of a country unable to host a Winter Olympics entirely at home, with all the political costs that would entail, the Italian government opted to fund its track rather than spend (less, incidentally) on tracks in foreign venues.

Two years before the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina (Italy), the IOC has reiterated its doubts about the bobsleigh track that has just started construction amid additional criticism over tree felling. The track must be validated by an IOC pre-homologation before March 2025 to ensure the safety of the athletes.

"First of all, a reflection on what the IOC can or cannot do," said Christophe Dubi, Executive Director of the Olympic Games, at a press conference in Venice on Friday, at the end of a three-day visit by the IOC Coordination Commission.

"We have expressed a wish. And at the end of the day, the reality is that today there is a building site in Cortina". The IOC's wish has clearly not been granted. The decision taken by the organisers, with the support of the Italian government, has been respected, even if not shared, despite the disagreement of the parent body. 

Work on the century-old track finally began this week, less than a year before the IOC-mandated test events. No sliding track in recent memory has been completed in such a short time, and organisers continue to negotiate a possible Plan B in a neighbouring country. 

Dubi said the track must be ready by March 2025 to ensure the safety of athletes. The test events took on added significance after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident hours before the start of the opening ceremony at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"We cannot compromise on this issue," Dubi added. "It comes from the international federations. So we have to follow their experience and expertise, no matter what, these are the conditions they have set," said the Swiss.

His comments showed his disagreement with Italy's decision: "Let's not kid ourselves. This is very narrow. Is it complicated? One in particular. Yes, it is complicated. The rest of the venues are constructions of villages and ... a multipurpose hall, which is not so complicated," Dubi said. 

"We ask that ... every day be respected because these schedules are tight. Let's be very clear, it's not complicated. And when it comes to organising the Games, you are miles ahead of any previous organising committee". 

Faced with this uncertain scenario of whether Italy will manage to get the track ready in record time, the Italian head of the organisation of the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan and Cortina, Andrea Varnier, is considering other plans in case the track is not ready in time.

The president of the Coordination Commission for the 2026 Olympic Games, Norwegian Kristin Kloster, also expressed her doubts, pointing out that the IOC "did not recommend the construction of new structures" because the work would be expensive (82 million euros) and of little interest to the local population, let alone the athletes.

"We are monitoring the deadlines because we know that there is very little time between now and March 2025 to deliver such a structure," she said. 

"That's why the organising committee decided to take measures for a Plan B," she recalled, namely to use existing facilities abroad. "We did not recommend building new facilities. The Italian authorities wanted it [...] We respect their decision," she recalled.

Differences and disagreements with the IOC aside, Italy is moving ahead with its $90 million plan to rebuild the historic track in Cortina, which falls under its organisational jurisdiction (and was the original plan when it was designated in 2019), and which, if successful in time, would allow it not to lose out on hosting the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events for the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan-Cortina.