Italy's Transport Minister Paola De Micheli approved the decree ©Getty Images

Italy's Transport Minister Paola De Micheli has signed a decree which gives the green light to major infrastructure projects for Milan-Cortina 2026.

Major road and rail links have been approved for Games areas with €1 billion (£902 million/$1.1 billion) in funding released.

It is hoped that the improvements will not just lead to better accessibility at the next edition of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, but also leave a lasting legacy in northern Italy.

"With the Olympics decree we will make a leap in infrastructural quality in one of the most developed areas of the country with an important impact on people's quality of life and also a competitive improvement for businesses," said De Micheli.

"The financed works serve to enhance accessibility and connections in view of the great international event, but have been conceived to maintain their usefulness over time, even after 2026, and will be built in the name of full environmental sustainability."

Discussions have been held over the past months to decide what transport links should be improved.

Lombardy, of which Milan is the capital, will receive €473 million (£427 million/$559 million) while Cortina D'Ampezzo's Veneto region will receive €325 million (£293 million/$384 million).

Milan-Cortina was awarded the 2026 Winter Games last year ©Getty Images
Milan-Cortina was awarded the 2026 Winter Games last year ©Getty Images

Cash will also be directed to the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano.

Milan-Cortina 2026 expressed its satisfaction after the decree was signed.

"Milan-Cortina proves that it is already an effective lever of economic development, capable of realising works that citizens have been waiting for for a long time," said chief executive Vincenzo Novari.

"Those approved, in fact, are not intended for the realisation of the sporting event which, on the basis of the agreements made with the International Olympic Committee, will be privately financed. 

"These are public works largely already planned or requested by local authorities, which will be useful above all to citizens of the regions and provinces concerned.

"But it will greatly facilitate the accessibility and connections necessary for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics." 

Milan-Cortina won the 2026 hosting rights by defeating a Swedish bid from Stockholm-Åre by 47 votes to 34 in June 2019.