Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini has once again proposed Cortina d’Ampezzo as the venue for the bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions of the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics which will be held in 2026. The hypothesis had been set aside by CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee ) because the reconstruction of the old track is very expensive, so complex and long that it cannot be completed within the deadlines imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The disappointment of the Veneto Region and its president Luca Zaia convinced Salvini to propose the project again in a simplified version despite the fact that at this point it is very complicated to complete it.
The Cortina bobsleigh track has been discussed for three years due to the considerable costs and environmental impact of its renovation. The Veneto Region and the Milan-Cortina foundation, which was entrusted with the management of the works in view of the Olympics, had foreseen an initial expense of 85 million euros for the demolition of the old Eugenio Monti track and the construction of the new one. In addition to the track, the project also included buildings to house the teams, places for journalists and new stands for spectators. In the initial version there was also a “sports recreation” park which would have served to financially support the management after the Olympics. The park was then removed with a saving of around 20 million euros compared to the initial proposal.
In 2022 the increase in the costs of raw materials and materials due to the war in Ukraine increased costs again to 81 million euros, but in the last year even different estimates were released: at the beginning of February the president of Veneto, Luca Zaia, he said that costs could have increased up to 120 million euros.
All the tenders published by the foundation to find a company willing to take charge of the construction site were deserted. No company felt like risking heavy penalties for failing to meet deadlines and deadlines, which are decidedly demanding.
These difficulties have pushed other cities to apply to host bobsleigh races. The first attempt was Innsbruck, Austria: in July, after the tender had been abandoned for the first time, the mayor Georg Willi wrote to the foundation proposing to use their bobsleigh track and asking for 12.5 million euros to adapt the structures. St. Moritz, in Switzerland, is also considered by the IOC among the best solutions to solve the problem.
Cesana Torinese, which had hosted the competitions during the Turin Olympics in 2006, also proposed. The Cesana Torinese track, called Cesana Pariol, was built in 2005. At the time it cost 110 million euros. It remained in operation for six years, hosting the 2006 Olympics, the bobsleigh world cup in 2009 and the luge world championships in 2011. As happened to many of the facilities built for the Olympics, the Cesana track was also forced to close due of the high management costs, approximately 1.3 million euros per year.
– Read also: Turin wants to host the Olympic bobsleigh races which will not be held in Cortina
Cesana’s candidacy was presented with more force after CONI president Giovanni Malagò had announced in mid-October that he would give up the resurfacing of the Cortina runway. At the end of October, the metropolitan city of Turin and the Piedmont Region sent a substantial dossier to the government and CONI, the Italian national Olympic committee, to convince them to move the competitions to Cesana. This solution was also supported by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. Despite Malagò’s announcement and the increasingly tight deadlines, the president of Veneto Luca Zaia he never gave up to the hypothesis of redoing the Cortina runway.
Tuesday 5 December had been indicated as the last day available to choose a venue, but Salvini’s proposal moved the deadline for the decision again. During the meeting held at the ministry Salvini assured that the new proposal in a simplified version “will not cost Italians a cent more”, but it is not clear how much.
Tuesday morning before the IOC meeting he spread a note in which he clarifies his position which is very different from Salvini’s proposal. The IOC “expects that the final decision will include the organization of the events in an existing and fully functioning center outside Italy”.