2026 Mi­lan-Cortina bid moves for­ward with­out gov't fund­ing

Malta Independent - - Sport -

IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach gave his bless­ing Thurs­day for the joint Mi­lan-Cortina d'Am­pezzo bid for the 2026 Win­ter Olympics to move for­ward with­out fund­ing from the Ital­ian govern­ment.

The can­di­dacy is be­ing sup­ported ex­clu­sively — fi­nan­cially at least — by the re­gional gov­ern­ments of Lom­bardy and Veneto.

"This can­di­da­ture is very strong be­cause it re­flects the re­forms of Olympic Agenda 2020," Bach said at the con­clu­sion of two days of meet­ings in Rome.

"The guar­an­tees which have been ex­pressed by Lom­bardy and Veneto are very im­por­tant to se­cure the over­all can­di­da­ture. That is well ap­pre­ci­ated by the IOC."

Italy Deputy Pre­mier Luigi Di Maio said last month that the govern­ment will send a let­ter of sup­port for the bid to the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee "but as govern­ment we won't pro­vide 1 euro — nei­ther for di­rect nor in­di­rect costs."

Fund­ing from fed­eral gov­ern­ments has al­ways been one of the keys for Olympic bids but Agenda 2020, Bach's wide-rang­ing re­form pack­age passed in 2014, al­lows for more flex­i­ble rules.

Lom­bardy and Veneto are two of Italy's most af­flu­ent re­gions.

Bach said that govern­ment un­der­sec­re­tary and sports del­e­gate Gian­carlo Gior­getti as­sured him that Italy "is ready to de­liver the guar­an­tees about free en­try and se­cu­rity which would be needed from the fed­eral govern­ment."

Bach also met with Ital­ian Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella.

"We are leav­ing Rome and Italy with much more con­fi­dence about this can­di­da­ture," Bach said. "We re­ally see things com­ing along."

Cal­gary and Stock­holm, the other two cities bid­ding for the 2026 Games, have more se­ri­ous fund­ing is­sues.

Cal­gary's town coun­cil voted in fa­vor of its bid this week but on con­di­tion that it can se­cure sat­is­fac­tory fund­ing to cover op­er­a­tional costs of the games.

The lo­cal govern­ment in Stock­holm, too, has balked at spend­ing tax­payer money on the event.

The host will be se­lected by the IOC in a vote on June 24 in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

An­other po­ten­tial hur­dle for the Ital­ian bid rose re­cently when the rul­ing coali­tion led by the anti-es­tab­lish­ment 5-Star Move­ment and right-wing League party sug­gested it is con­sid­er­ing tak­ing over the dis­tri­bu­tion of fi­nan­cial fund­ing for sports from the Ital­ian Olympic Com­mit­tee (CONI).

Un­der cur­rent con­di­tions, CONI de­cides how to di­vide the more than 400 mil­lion eu­ros ($450 mil­lion) in an­nual fund­ing from the govern­ment be­tween the var­i­ous na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions. If the func­tion is re­moved, it would greatly re­duce CONI's power.

"Clearly find­ing a so­lu­tion to this is­sue has taken prece­dent over ev­ery­thing else," CONI pres­i­dent Gio­vanni Malago said.

Added Bach: "Af­ter the talks with CONI and with the un­der­sec­re­tary Gior­getti, I'm very con­fi­dent there will be a so­lu­tion found which will be in the in­ter­ests of Italy and the in­ter­ests of sport."

The Mi­lan-Cortina bid was orig­i­nally slated to be a three­p­ronged can­di­dacy in­clud­ing Turin, which hosted the 2006 Win­ter Games. But in­fight­ing led to Turin be­ing dropped.

Un­der the re­vised plan, hockey and speed­skat­ing — which had been slot­ted for venues built for the 2006 Turin Games — would be held in Mi­lan along with the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies.

Alpine ski­ing would be held in 1956 host Cortina, while biathlon would be slated for nearby An­ter­selva — a reg­u­lar stop on the biathlon World Cup cir­cuit.

Other snow sports could be held in Bormio, north of Mi­lan, while ski jump­ing could be held at an ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity in Predazzo, which would mean in­volv­ing a third re­gion — Trentino-Alto Adige.

Italy is anx­ious to bring a bid through the en­tire process af­ter two Rome can­di­da­cies were with­drawn.

Two years ago, Italy was forced to end Rome's bid for the 2024 Sum­mer Olympics be­cause of staunch op­po­si­tion from the city's mayor.

And in 2012, then-pre­mier Mario Monti scrapped the city's bid for the 2020 Olympics be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­cerns.

When asked if the IOC had a backup plan if all three of the 2026 bids with­draw, Bach re­sponded: "The an­swer is no."

Amid re­ports that Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, Ar­gentina, are in­ter­ested in for­mu­lat­ing a 2026 bid, Bach re­jected re-open­ing the race.

"We are in the race for 2026 and we will not change the rules in the mid­dle of the race," he said. "On the other hand, we are very happy to see al­ready now there is good in­ter­est to host the Win­ter Games in 2030. We have a num­ber of no­ti­fi­ca­tions from na­tional com­mit­tees in­ter­ested."

Bach said there is also plenty of in­ter­est for the 2032 Sum­mer Games

"This is a clear demon­stra­tion of the ap­peal and rel­e­vance of the Olympic Games," Bach said, "and con­fi­dence in the way the IOC is un­der­tak­ing its re­forms to or­ga­nize the Olympic Games in the fu­ture."

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