MILAN — Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malagò is confident everything is on track for the country’s first Olympics in two decades but admits that the past few years have been akin to « running a marathon with a backpack. »
Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo will stage the 2026 Winter Games and the country’s preparations have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic as well as political upheaval.
But Malagò hailed a productive first in-person meeting with the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for the Games, which spent three days in Milan.
« In the past three years since we won the Games, I have met with four governments, four different institutions and structures, four people with whom to deal with … without forgetting COVID, inflation and the international crisis, » Malagò said at a news conference on Wednesday.
« It was like running a marathon with a backpack. Now I am happy because the appointment of Andrea Varnier finally shows that the government is on board. … We all know very well what are the difficulties and the problems, but I think most of these will be resolved soon. »
Varnier was named chief executive of the Milan Cortina 2026 organizing committee last month, ending a considerable period of limbo as his predecessor, Vincenzo Novari, left several months ago.
The 59-year-old Varnier, who has also been an adviser to the IOC, was managing director of image and events for Turin 2006 — the last time Italy held the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
« Andrea Varnier is the light at the end of the tunnel, » Malagò added. « His collaboration as adviser to the IOC and more than 30 years of experience in the industry are the key to accelerating our roadmap. His appointment represented a fundamental step. »
During the three days in Milan, the commission visited a number of venues across the city, including San Siro, which is slated to hold the opening ceremony.
However, there are question marks over what the stadium will look like in three years with AC Milan and Inter Milan — the two teams which play their soccer home games there — keen to build a stadium of their own, most likely either on the site of the existing arena or nearby.
« There doesn’t seem to be another venue in Italy that can hold 80,000 spectators, it’s not just a question of spectacle but also revenue, » Malagò said. « But as we’ve said from the beginning it’s not something that concerns us, even if we are obviously very interested spectators.
« Anything is fine for us. It’s fine if the current San Siro remains, although certain things need to be fixed. … We’re also open to a new San Siro, although we don’t know if it would be ready in time, it’s not up to us to say, we trust the city management. »