Milan 2026 Savors Public, Government Support

(ATR) The Winter Olympic bid from Italy wins key backing as IOC inspectors end visit. Brian Pinelli is in Milan.

(ATR) Favorable polls and staunch political support may move Italy one step closer to winning the 2026 Olympic Winter Games for Milan and Cortina.

According to an independent poll commissioned by the IOC Evaluation Commission, 83 percent of Italians are in favor of the Milan-Cortina bid. Among the Milanese polled the number rises to 87 percent. Throughout the rest of the Lombardy region, support is clocked at 81 percent. For Veneto, the other of the two primary regions where the Games would be staged, public opinion favors the bid by about the same figure.

The two northern Italian regions are Italy’s richest, accounting for more than 50-percent of the GNP.

The bid also received a key pledge of support on Friday from Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. He signed a letter guaranteeing to cover security costs of 415 million Euros for the Games. Stockholm, the other city in the race for 2026 has yet to furnish a government guarantee.

At a closing news conference in the grand Piazza Marino, Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago was joined by the mayors of Milan and Cortina, Giuseppe Sala and Gianpietro Ghedina.

The presidents of Lombardy and Veneto regions, Attillio Fontana and Luca Zaia rounded out the show of solidarity.

The room was packed with Italian camera crews and reporters. Malago and the politicians were confident with their words, dramatic and emotional at times.

The Italian NOC chief and IOC member explained how the candidacy has gained momentum and stronger political support over time.

"The final result is to join these two fantastic regions of Cortina and Milano and to propose to the IOC a very special mix, a peculiar combination of history and tradition, of beauty, a unique combination in the worldwide panorama."

Regarding the IOC team visiting venues and meeting sports experts and athletes, Malago said: "I’m sure they saw with their eyes, atmosphere with Italian style."

The Italian NOC leader said the bid complies "100-percent with Agenda 2020."

Milan Mayor Sala focused on the citizens of his city.

"To be very clear, we want to win, when I say we, I mean the people of Milan in our city and the regions," Sala said. "On this day the IOC made public, and it is not surprising to me that 87-percent of the people in Milan are in favor of the Olympics.

"The OlympicWinter Games could be of fundamental value to our city. The real question is are we able to manage in a real and proper way and the answer is yes, we are committed to having a new dream," Sala said.

"When Italy can work together we can do very good work," Veneto region president Fontana added.

Representing the IOC Evaluation Commission at the news conference was chairman Octavian Morariu and Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

"After our five days here, we can say that the overwhelming popular support demonstrated by the latest IOC poll is not a surprise," Morariu said, in his closing remarks.

"It is clear for us that you can make dreams happen together," Morariu said, referring to Milan and Cortina.

During the six-day inspection visitthrough mountainous region of northern Italy, the IOC representatives and their Milan-Cortina 2026 hosts traveled approximately 900 kilometers touring all proposed venues for 2026. It began with an opening news conference in Venice on Monday, closing five days later.

With Italy providing word of financial support from the government, Morariu was asked Saturday about whether he expects Stockholm to meet an April 12 deadline to do the same.

"We will receive, or not, the guarantees on the 12th of April," Morariu said.

"What matters is that we receive the answers in a useful time to be analyzed, and enough time to be endorsed by the members of the Commission.

"I think we can be patient for the rest of April and let’s see what is happening then."

The IOC evaluators are expected to release their official report of the two competing bids in late May, one month before the IOC elects the 2026 host city on June 24.

"Whether it is Italy or Sweden who host in 2026, challenges lie ahead for the IOC as the Games are organized with widespread regional concepts," Morariu said, referring to venue clusters that are three, four and five hours apart in both bids.

Milan taxi cab driver Andrea Pappagallo said he would be excited to see the Winter Olympics in his city, however was startled that it would be more than seven years away.

"For 2026 – Mamma Mia!," Pappagallo said. "I can say this – I hope to see the Olympics in 2026.

"We had Expo in 2015 – I don’t know how many people visited the exposition over six months, but we had no problem. I think also for the Olympics no problem."

Reported in Milan by Brian Pinelli.