2026 Winter Olympics Chief Talks Plans and Progress

The floor-to-ceiling home windows in Andrea Varnier’s Forty fourth-floor workplace provide a sweeping view of Milan and a few of the mountains that may host the 2026 Winter Olympics, however Varnier jokes that the panorama isn’t for him. He is nearly by no means on this workplace, he admits. He not often makes use of the desk. There is simply no time to sit down nonetheless, he says with a shrug.

The Milan-Cortina Winter Games are nonetheless virtually three years away. But Varnier, a veteran of earlier Olympics in Turin, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, is aware of higher than most how briskly these years will go. He additionally is aware of how a lot work there’s left to do.

What Milan-Cortina organizers and the International Olympic Committee are planning for 2026 is probably the most sprawling Winter Games in historical past: determine skating and ice hockey in Milan, the cosmopolitan hub of Italy’s north; freestyle snowboarding and snowboarding in Livigno, near the Swiss border; biathlon in Anterselva, a German-speaking area within the shadow of Austria; and curling, bobsled and Alpine snowboarding in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the location of the 1956 Winter Games.

The excellent news? About 90 % of the competitors venues for the Games exist already, Olympic officers stated. The dangerous? At least two main parts, the Olympic Village and the hockey enviornment, are nonetheless within the earliest phases of development, and greater tasks like highways and rail hyperlinks are out of the organizers’ management.

In an interview final month within the workplace he not often makes use of, Varnier, who took on the chief government position final November, mentioned managing an occasion unfold over 8,500 sq. miles; how Italy’s mannequin is likely to be the way forward for the Olympics; and what retains him up at night time.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

The IOC has just lately embraced this new sort of sprawling Olympics. Torino was huge. Vancouver was huge. Beijing was huge. But that is greater?

This is unquestionably greater.

And so that you’re proposing competitors clusters somewhat than a single website?

We have four-slash-five of these. Plus, a closing ceremony within the Roman amphitheater in Verona. Which provides an additional attention-grabbing merchandise, however in fact additionally an additional complication. But the concept of ​​the Winter Games is that they should be unfold out as a result of there isn’t a mountain metropolis or mountain village that’s ready these days to maintain the Games.

That’s why you want Milan.

You want the town. So it is all the time a metropolis someplace. And a mountain shut sufficient to that. It will get farther and farther. So Torino. Then Vancouver. And then Beijing. Here it is completely different. It’s a totally completely different idea. The concept right here is to, to start with, go the place the infrastructure and the expertise is. So that is the way in which it was chosen.

So there’s Milan, which is probably the most modern metropolis now we have on this nation, however the place there’s not a particular custom for winter sports activities. But it is Milan. And then we go in fact to Cortina, with its historical past and its expertise in Alpine snowboarding. They have a really sturdy custom in curling. They have an unbelievable historical past in bobsleigh and the sliding sports activities. Then we go to Anterselva: That’s among the finest, finest acknowledged websites for biathlon on the earth. Then now we have Val di Fiemme, the place Nordic sports activities are a really longstanding custom. Several editions of world championships. So there’s already the infrastructure. Yes, now we have to modernize. But it is already there, so we do not have to construct.

The bulk of the competitors venues exist already, which is able to save on price range and time. But how do you join all this stuff?

It is vital that we perceive that there’s a new system. Because if this idea works, it is going to imply extra alternatives for different international locations to host the Games. So transportation, for instance: We will do in-cluster transportation, and then we are going to advocate using public transportation between clusters as a lot as potential.

We’re making an attempt to rationalize your entire system for these Games, and hopefully to depart as a legacy for future potential organizing committees or candidate cities, that they’ll consider the Games in a bigger space, to contain a bigger piece of the inhabitants, to make use of current infrastructure.

Is that as a result of the IOC cannot ask cities or international locations to spend $50 billion, as Russia did for the Sochi Games? Because no person would wish to host?

The danger is that no person will do the Games in Europe anymore. The Winter Games. The Summer Games is a unique story. And Europe, in any case, it is the guts of winter sports activities. I imply, with all due respect to all people: It was born right here, and the Alps are the Alps.

The Games should go in all places, and to as many international locations as potential. But if we do not discover a completely different system, in Europe will probably be extraordinarily tough. Because, I imply, this nation continues to be a G7 nation, and in case you can not afford the Games, then who can afford to host the Games?

When you consider organising experiences in other places for folks, it is virtually as in case you’re working a number of video games directly.

In a manner, sure. But the precept that we would like is that, to start with, it is the identical thread that connects every thing and the expertise that you just dwell. Of course, the sports activities are completely different, however they’re anyway.

How is the connection with the IOC? After Pyeongchang and Beijing, they should be fairly snug to be again on what’s acquainted floor for them.

I can not reply on behalf of the IOC, however it’s a nice consolation for us as an organizing committee, and I’m positive for them. They are very concerned as a result of they see us as a chance for optimization of the Winter Games. Because a few of the issues that we’ll begin right here could develop into a brand new norm for the long run.

What retains you up at night time?

Oh, so many issues. But principally that point is brief. We should get well a few of the time that was misplaced.

You have to know that this organizing committee began in January 2020, as a result of the task of the Games was in June 2019, and this nation was totally closed for 3 and a half months, principally. And it was very tough to start out a corporation like this in such a brand new manner. And so the pandemic continued and then when it completed the struggle began, so it was a tough time. Now we do not have excuses anymore.

Another problem is to seek out the businesses to cowl that a part of the price range that needs to be lined by home companions. And you can not contain companions, on the related value, only for the final six months. So that is for me probably the most important factor.

I are likely to sleep, however that worries me: time and cash.

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