2026 Winter Olympics Chief Talks Plans and Progress

The floor-to-ceiling home windows in Andrea Varnier’s Forty fourth-floor workplace supply a sweeping view of Milan and a few of the mountains that may host the 2026 Winter Olympics, however Varnier jokes that the panorama will not be for him. He is sort of by no means on this workplace, he admits. He hardly ever makes use of the desk. There is simply no time to take a seat 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 may be left to do.

What Milan-Cortina organizers and the International Olympic Committee are planning for 2026 is essentially 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 positioning of the 1956 Winter Games.

The excellent news? About 90 p.c of the competitors venues for the Games exist already, Olympic officers mentioned. The unhealthy? At least two main elements, the Olympic Village and the hockey enviornment, are nonetheless within the earliest levels of building, and greater initiatives like highways and rail hyperlinks are out of the organizers’ management.

In an interview final month within the workplace he hardly ever 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 could be the way forward for the Olympics; and what retains him up at evening.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

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

This is certainly greater.

And so that you’re proposing competitors clusters reasonably 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 any mountain metropolis or mountain village that’s in a position these days to maintain the Games.

That’s why you want Milan.

You want town. So it is at all times 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 totally different. It’s a totally totally different idea. The thought right here is to, to begin with, go the place the infrastructure and the expertise is. So that is the way in which it was chosen.

So there may be Milan, which is essentially the most modern metropolis we’ve on this nation, however the place there may be not a selected 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 robust custom in curling. They have an unbelievable historical past in bobsleigh and the sliding sports activities. Then we go to Anterselva: That’s probably the greatest, greatest acknowledged websites for biathlon on this planet. Then we’ve Val di Fiemme, the place Nordic sports activities are a really longstanding custom. Several editions of world championships. So there may be already the infrastructure. Yes, we’ve 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 finances and time. But how do you join all this stuff?

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

We’re making an attempt to rationalize all the 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 nations to spend $50 billion, as Russia did for the Sochi Games? Because no person would need to host?

The danger is that no person will do the Games in Europe anymore. The Winter Games. The Summer Games is a distinct story. And Europe, in any case, it is the center 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 must go all over the place, and to as many nations as doable. But if we do not discover a totally different system, in Europe will probably be extraordinarily tough. Because, I imply, this nation continues to be a G7 nation, and for those who can not afford the Games, then who can afford to host the Games?

When you consider organising experiences somewhere else for folks, it is virtually as for those who’re operating a number of video games without delay.

In a means, sure. But the precept that we would like is that, to begin with, it is the identical thread that connects every thing and the expertise that you simply dwell. Of course, the sports activities are totally 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 certain 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 turn out to be a brand new norm for the longer term.

What retains you up at evening?

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

You have to grasp that this organizing committee began in January 2020, as a result of the project of the Games was in June 2019, and this nation was absolutely closed for 3 and a half months, principally. And it was very tough to start out a company like this in such a brand new means. And so the pandemic continued and then when it completed the warfare 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 finances that must be lined by home companions. And you can’t contain companions, on the related price, only for the final six months. So that is for me essentially the most crucial factor.

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

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