Location of 2026 Winter Olympics Sliding events in doubt

The 2026 Winter Olympics face uncertainty over the venue for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events due to the high costs of upgrading the Eugenio Monti track.

The location of the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games has been cast into doubt after a plan to update the historic Eugenio Monti track in Italy was deemed too expensive.

Four years ago, Italy’s Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo were awarded the 2026 Winter Games, with an initial plan to refurbish the Eugenio Monti facility for the downhill track events.

Built in 1923, the Eugenio Monti track had previously been used in the 1956 Winter Olympics hosted by Cortina d’Ampezzo and nine world championships, the most recent of which was in 1999. However, maintenance costs led to its closure in 2008.

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Italy’s bid to host the 2026 Games included an estimated 50 million euros (53 million U.S. dollars) for updating the track. However, the July 31 deadline for bids passed without any qualifying submissions, as reported cost estimates ranged from 93 million to 120 million euros (99 million to 127 million U.S. dollars).

The comprehensive budget for the Games has more than doubled to 4 billion euros (4.2 billion U.S. dollars) since the plans began.

During an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Mumbai, India on Monday, it was revealed that officials were considering relocating the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton competitions to either Innsbruck, Austria (approximately 160 kilometers from Cortina d’Ampezzo) or St. Moritz, Switzerland (around 330 kilometers away).

The decision sparked debate in Italy, with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Wednesday advocating for the events to take place in Cesana Pariol, situated approximately 240 kilometers west of Milan, near the Italian industrial capital of Turin.

Tajani expressed, “Italy cannot in any way give up being the venue for all the Olympic races as stated in the dossier for the candidacy. I prefer Cesana to Innsbruck and St. Moritz.”

This proposal gained support on Thursday when Italy’s Minister for Public Administration, Paolo Zangrillo, backed the idea. Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala also pledged his support for Cesana Pariol if it was the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly plan.

In response, Luca Zaia, the president of the Veneto region where Cortina d’Ampezzo is located, suggested that if the sliding events were moved from Cortina d’Ampezzo, the region should be compensated by relocating both the opening and closing ceremonies to the Verona Arena, which has a capacity of approximately 15,000 people. The current plans involve hosting the opening ceremony at Milan’s San Siro Stadium, which can accommodate around 75,000 spectators, with the closing ceremony at the Verona Arena.

The utilization of the Piedmont facility still faces challenges, including the need for a feasibility study at the Cesana Pariol site and approval from Italian and IOC officials. It remains uncertain whether reconstructing the track in Cesana Pariol would be more cost-effective than upgrading the one in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The 2026 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 6-22.

-IANS

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