Italy's 2026 Winter Olympics bobsleigh track row deepens

AFP - [email protected]
Italy's 2026 Winter Olympics bobsleigh track row deepens
A picture shows the former venue for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP.

The row over the bobsleigh track for the 2026 Winter Olympics has gone up a notch after the IOC reacted angrily to the announcement that organisers had signed a deal for construction to begin in Italy.


"The bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track for the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics and Paralympics will be in the town of Cortina," Italy's Transport Minister and deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Sports Minister Andrea Abodi announced on Friday.

"This choice puts an end (to the discussions) and shows the steely determination of this government to complete the construction work in order to have the best possible Games in Italy."

But the announcement sparked an angry response from the International Olympic Committee, which is opposed to an 82-million ($88.6-million) project that it says risks not being ready in time to be properly tested before the Games and will have little long-term benefit to local residents.

"The IOC has strong concerns about the delivery of this project by the required deadline of March 2025, which is necessary to validate and homologate the track, as no sliding track has ever been completed in such a short timeframe," the IOC said in a statement.

"This concern is shared by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation and the International Luge Federation.

"Therefore, the IOC has asked the Milano Cortina 2026 Organising Committee to prepare a plan B as contingency in case of any delays, to ensure bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions can be held during the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026."

A political football

When contacted by AFP, the local organising committee said it had no further comment. Italian construction company Pizzarotti, the sole bidder for the contract,
now has 13 months to build a 1,445m-long (4,740-foot) track which includes 16 bends and requires complex refrigeration systems, all of which need extensive
testing before the Games begin on February 6, 2026.

The issue has become a political football in the hands of the hard-right Italian government of Giorgia Meloni.

In October last year, the organisers agreed that bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions at the 2026 Games would be held outside of Italy, meaning that a key venue would not be located in the host country -- almost unprecedented in the history of the Winter Olympics.

READ ALSO: Why more of Italy's 2026 Winter Olympics could be held abroad


But Meloni's government has been determined that the Games have the "Made in Italy" label and relaunched the idea of building a track in Cortina, as was
originally set out when the Italian bid won in June 2019.

Italy's economy minister Giancarlo Giorgetti admitted the 2026 Olympics were becoming a headache. "I am starting to regret contributing to bringing the Winter Olympics to Italy because it's a big responsibility and I see there are big difficulties," he said on Friday.

"There are just two years to go and what have we done?... The time left to complete the infrastructure works has been reduced and is almost impossible to do in that time.

"We must find a way to not waste this historic opportunity."


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