Italy's campaign to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games has received a big boost on the eve of the start of the evaluation process after a key Government Minister said funding must be found to back the joint bid from Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, described as the most powerful and prominent politician in Italy, today gave the strongest indication yet that the money to help Milan and Cortina pay for the Games would be released.
"I'm totally convinced that the 2026 Olympics will be an exceptional opportunity, showcasing the incredible Italian and Lombard beauties," Salvini told Italian news agency ANSA.
"As for the Government's commitment, I think this must be there."
The intervention of Salvini comes as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission, led by Romania's Octavian Morariu, prepares to begin its inspection here of the bid from Stockholm-Åre.
It could become to be seen as a significant moment in a campaign that has so far been more noticeable for the number of potential bidders forced out of the race by lack of public support.
Milan-Cortina, like its only remaining rival, Stockholm-Åre, lacks Government guarantees, normally a prerequisite of any bid from the IOC but which have now been stretched to ensure there are at least two bidders.
The Italian Government in January pledged its support to Milan-Cortina in a letter sent by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to IOC President Thomas Bach but stopped short of promising the financial guarantees.
The assurances provided by the Italian Government include security, entry visas into the country and the protection and respect of human rights.