Liam Morgan

Gianpietro Ghedina was all smiles as he took a late night victory plunge into Lake Geneva after Milan Cortina d’Ampezzo was awarded the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games a week ago today.

The cool, chilly waters did little to dampen the Cortina Mayor's enthusiasm as he revelled in what bid leader and Italian National Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malagò described as a "very important result, not only for me but for the whole country".

Others had been less exuberant and flamboyant with their celebrations, which I have little doubt carried on through the entirety of the summer night in the Olympic capital.

There were tears from International Bobsleigh and Federation President Ivo Ferriani, who may yet have an important role to play in the country’s preparations to host the 2026 Games, and from the effervescent Malagò, who had spent the majority of the past week darting around the lobby of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hotel with the nimbleness of a Fiat driving down tight Italian city roads.

The morning after the night before, the Italian press decried the "miraculous" 47-34 win for Milan Cortina over Swedish rivals Stockholm Åre on what they claimed was a momentous day for the nation.

The hard work starts now for Giovanni Malagò, who having led the successful bid will now be President of the Milan Cortina 2026 Organising Committee ©Getty Images
The hard work starts now for Giovanni Malagò, who having led the successful bid will now be President of the Milan Cortina 2026 Organising Committee ©Getty Images

Now the dust has settled on the Italian triumph, the hard work for Malagò and others who will no doubt work alongside him on the Milan Cortina 2026 Organising Committee truly begins. Winning the vote is, after all, a means to an end, a necessity on the path to staging the Games.

It is fair to say there is already plenty in Malagò’s in-tray a week after their victory at the IOC Session.

For a start, neither the Italian nor Swedish candidacy would have survived in a previous race for a Winter Olympic Games. In fact, both bids openly admitted that was the case as they attempted to win the votes of IOC members by conceding they would not have got this far were it not for the "New Norm" reforms.

This makes the task that much tougher for Milan Cortina, a project my colleague David Owen noted "may ultimately require a significant re-jig of its venue proposals, including possible use of a facility in another country" in his analysis of the IOC Evaluation Commission reports.

Among the main concerns is the expensive renovation of the Eugenio Monti sliding track in Cortina, closed since 2008 "due to a shortage of funding for the necessary renovation work".

Given the IOC has demanded cities do not build venues for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton owing to the complex, technical requirements needed and the difficulty in ensuring they provide a legacy for the host city, it makes little sense for Milan Cortina 2026 to essentially rebuild a venue at considerable cost.

Bid officials were keen to stress how the dramatic facelift of the venue will prove economic benefits to Cortina but, at around €50 million (£44.5 million/$56.5 million), it will not come cheap and the cost could feasibly rise before it is completed. A more practical idea would be to use an existing track, even if it is in a different country.

"In Cortina there is a long tradition in bobsleigh," Ghedina told Gazzetta dello Sport after the vote. "We have a company linked to this discipline and companies that build bobs. We want to strengthen this tradition, but we realise the difficulties."

There were joyous scenes in the Italian delegation when the result was announced ©Getty Images
There were joyous scenes in the Italian delegation when the result was announced ©Getty Images

Ghedina told the same newspaper he believes construction could begin as early as next year, with a view to having the renovated Eugenio Monti track ready around three years before the Games.

"I believe the work will begin in 2020 or 2021," he said. "We know that it takes two years to complete the work and then a series of test runs will be necessary, to have all the approvals, at least a couple of years before the event.

"It will therefore be ready around 2023."

Ghedina had barely dried off after his dip in the Lake before the reaction to news reverberating around Italy and Italian football on the possibility of San Siro Stadium, proposed by Milan Cortina 2026 as the location for the Opening Ceremony, being demolished, posing another potential problem for organisers.

Milan giants Inter and AC, who share the stadium, had announced the plans to knock down the iconic venue on the day of the vote before Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala rubbished the suggestions and claimed when he returned from the IOC Session it would "surely still be standing" by 2026 

The two teams are still pressing ahead with the construction of a new 60,000 stadium. Always looking on the bright side, Malagò claimed, that whatever happens to the San Siro, Milan would be left with a gleaming modern venue for the Opening Ceremony.

But with constructing a new facility comes potential issues which could affect Milan Cortina 2026. An existing venue poses far less issues for an Organising Committee compared with building one from scratch. Expect Milan Cortina 2026 to be keeping a close eye on developments in the coming months and years.

While the financial wealth of Lombardy and Veneto - where Milan and Cortina are located, respectively - is there for all to see, so is the frail nature of Italy’s economy. We are seemingly never far away from reports that it is on the brink of collapse and that Europe is facing a Greece-style crisis as a result.

"We have budget problems in Italy but I think that this is something that everyone has," Italy's Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti said at a press conference after Milan Cortina 2026 had presented to the IOC. 

Milan Cortina 2026 will have less than seven years to prepare for hosting the Games ©Getty Images
Milan Cortina 2026 will have less than seven years to prepare for hosting the Games ©Getty Images

Transport and how athletes, officials and spectators will travel the considerable distances between venues have also been cited as a possible issue for Milan Cortina 2026, although that is nothing new for organisers of any Olympic Games.

Of course, promises made by candidate cities are often stretched and sometimes broken when it comes to hosting the Games but Milan Cortina 2026 is starting from a much lower point than most successful bids in recent memory, given the catalogue of issues found by the IOC Evaluation Commission, many of which are not exactly quick fixes.

Yes, some of these, including concern over the fragility of the Italian economy and uncertainty surrounding San Siro, are beyond the control of the soon-to-be Organising Committee.

But others are of their own doing and they will have plenty of questions to answer from the IOC, Italian officials and sports organisations before the curtain comes up on the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.