83 percent of Italians back the 2026 Winter Games. Olympic expert Giacomo Margutti believes that Milano stands a good chance of taking home the bidding thanks to the strong public support and the city’s unique European identity.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its Evaluation Commission are currently hard at work trying to decide which of the final two locations are best suited to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. With both finalists Milan-Cortina and Stockholm-Åre having financial support from their governments, the race seems to be tied. But the Italians seem far more enthusiastic. 

“Milan has grown a lot in the last couple of years and is Italy’s only true European city. They are used to hosting huge events like international fashion weeks and are more than prepared for it”, says veteran Olympic freelance journalist Giacomo Margutti. He has covered six olympic games, both summer and winter, and has a very confident feeling about Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo being the host of the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. “So far I have only seen positive reactions from the Italians”, Margutti says. 

Giacomo Margutti, freelance journalist specializing in reporting Olympics, thinks Milan-Cortina is probable to win the bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Photograph: Courtesy of Giacomo Margutti

Public support is a key factor influencing the IOC’s decision of host country. In that aspect, Milan stands a bigger chance of taking home the bid. According to a recent poll, public support for hosting the Winter Olympics in Italy is as high as 83 percent. In the possible host city, Milan, as many as 87 percent are in favour. The Swedes seem far more pessimistic, only reaching 55 percent of public support nationwide. 

Nonetheless, Giacomo Margutti points out that the central and southern parts of the country show little interest in any type of winter sports. “In the majority of the country it is all about football, football and more football. I would say around 90 percent of the Italians don’t really know that there is a bid on the 2026 Winter Olympics”, he says and laughs. 

Davide Valente is a student of educational science at the University of Rome “Foro Italico”. He agrees that few of his friends and classmates, including himself, are interested in winter sports at all. However, he thinks that if they were asked what they thought about hosting the Olympics, they would be surprisingly positive. “It could be a great opportunity for Italy and the Italian movement of sports. The Olympic Games is known to create many jobs and boost the economy. It is also a way to show that Italy is a great state that can organise an enormous event for the entire world”, Davide Valente says with two classmates nodding along behind him. 

A statue of a hockey player close to the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Photograph: Oscar Barragan

Show me the money

Last fall the Italian government presented a draft budget plan with a budget deficit way higher than what agreed upon within the EU. Ever since the country’s economic future has been widely questioned, predicting that it might be on the path of a new crisis. This does, in no way, seem to be stopping the Italian government from showing full support to the possible future Winter Olympic Games with €415 million. Private investors will also be a key to financing the games. “The two northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto are the richest in the country, so the economical aspect seems to be less of a concern”, says Margutti. 

The IOC have recently launched a new reform package under the name Agenda 2020. It aims to change the reputation of the Olympics, showing that you can host low budget and sustainable games. Meeting the Agenda 2020 goals should not be too big of a challenge in Italy or in Sweden according to Giacomo Margutti. “A lot of the stuff is already there. No need to build that much, just enlarge already existing venues. It really is a close call between the two candidates”, he says.