(ATR) The IOC Evaluation Commission travelled over high mountains passes, along sinuous roads, through charming villages, and past sprawling vineyards in Italy’s Lombardy region on Wednesday.
Snowfall at higher elevations in the Italian Alps, and rain below, added to the challenge of substantial distances, while increasing travel times between venue clusters proposed in Milan-Cortina’s bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago, in typical Italian flair, advises visitors to a 2026 Winter Games not to worry, but simply enjoy all of what Italy has to offer.
"Of course the characteristic of our bid has a peculiarity in the specific that you can have a permanent show of the scenery, of the Alps, of this fantastic territory, or in a chateau and in a fantastic place not involved in the specific competitions of the Olympic Games," Malago said, responding to a question from Around the Rings in Livigno on Wednesday.
"At the same time, if you are a supporter of the snowboard, the alpine, the ski cross, or the biathlon, for me, you are in the most beautiful contest to be happy and to stay in that period at the place.
"Of course, if your first option is to see ice hockey, short track, alpine, and at the same time the biathlon and the bobsleigh, this is complicated for everybody."
Destinations for the IOC team on Wednesday included the northern Italian ski resorts of Livigno, proposed for freestyle skiing and snowboarding, and Bormio, slated to host men’s alpine skiing. The neighboring resorts in the Valtellina Cluster, near the Swiss border, are about an hour's drive apart, but separated by the stunning high alpine Fuscana Pass and its peak elevation of 2291 meters (7516 feet).
Distances and times in the Italian bid’s master plan include 421 kilometers (262 miles) between Milan and Cortina, about a five-hour drive; Venice to Cortina almost two-and-a-half hours; Livigno to Milan approximately four hours; Milan to Val di Fiemme about three hours, Cortina to Verona three hours. As a result, attending multiple events in different clusters on any given day will not be easy.
The distances and time-consuming travel could alter the strategies of how officials, fans, media, the Olympic family and potentially even athletes navigate and consume a Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
"I don’t think transportation will be a major handicap, honestly I don’t think so," said IOC Evaluation Commission chair Octavian Morariu. "People and the spectators come for the competition and athletes. I think everyone coming here will care less about the transport and more about the competitions."
The day’s journey also included a trip over Italy’s border into Switzerland and a wintery ascent, fortunately navigated on a well-maintained, adequate road over the 2149 meter Fuorn Pass. Then, it was back across the Italian border to Livigno.
Following the inspection visits of Livigno and Bormio, and a gathering with the media, the IOC team and their Milan-Cortina 2026 counterparts drove the more than three-hour journey southwest to Milan, much of it along two-lane roads.
"Yes, it is a lot of time on the road because we decided to organize [the IOC Evaluation visit] in practically three-days-and-a-half and we finish tonight in Milano," Malago said. "My impression is positive, I am not a judge, it would not be fair to anticipate their evaluation, but for me the feeling is very positive."
Lombardy region minister of sport and Olympic sprint canoe champion Antonio Rossi says that comprehensive studies have been undertaken assessing travel in the alpine region and traffic flow should not be an issue if Italy wins the right to host the Winter Games over Swedish opponent Stockholm-Are. He informed that additional measures are being taken.
"There are some plans to improve the highway from Milano to Bormio," Rossi said. "Yesterday, we have a letter from Switzerland that they will open the Forcola Pass in 2026. So, we have another road to reach Milano because from the Forcola Pass you arrive in Tirano.
"When we met the technical commission of the IOC, they were a bit worried about the flow because we could have 20,000 spectators per day in Livigno," Rossi said.
"The region of Lombardy has already planned work, irrespective of the Games, to adjust the roads in different parts and turns to make them easier to be driven by the buses."
The IOC inspection visit continues Thursday morning with a visit to Milan’s renowned San Siro Stadium, the largest in Italy, with its seating capacity of more than 80,000. Official meetings begin on Friday at Milan’s Palazzo Reale and the five-day visit concludes with a news conference on Saturday.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Livigno, Italy
For general comments or questions,click here.
25 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.