02/18 02:49 CST AP Interview: Milan-Cortina bid can revolutionize Olympics
AP Interview: Milan-Cortina bid can revolutionize Olympics
By ANDREW DAMPF
AP Sports Writer
ROME (AP) --- It starts with the name --- featuring two cities as opposed to
the usual one --- and involves venues dotted across a large swath of northern
Italy stretching from Milan to the Dolomites.
The Milan-Cortina bid for the 2026 Olympics has the potential to revolutionize
the Winter Games and leave a new blueprint for the future.
It's the first candidacy to fully embrace reforms demanded by IOC President
Thomas Bach, seeking to cut costs and ease taxpayer concerns in the aftermath
of Russia's $51 billion spending to prepare for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"We're the forerunner and we take pride in that fact," Italian Olympic
Committee president Giovanni Malago said in an interview with The Associated
Press on Friday, the same day that bid books were sent to the IOC.
The Milan-Cortina candidacy takes advantage of the more flexible rules provided
by Bach's reforms.
The bid proposes to hold figure skating, hockey and short-track speedskating in
Milan; sliding sports and curling in 1956 host Cortina; and speedskating,
biathlon and Nordic sports in Trentino-Alto Adige.
Alpine skiing would be divided between Bormio (men) and Cortina (women), and
only one venue would need to be built from scratch --- an arena in Milan.
The opening ceremony would be at the 80,000-seat San Siro in Milan, with the
closing at Verona's Arena, a large Roman amphitheater.
"Without Agenda 2020 (Bach's reform package) we would not have been able to
bid," Malago said.
The only other remaining candidate for 2026 is Stockholm, which proposes to
hold sliding events in Latvia. Following Milan-Cortina's lead, Stockholm
announced on Friday that it, too, was adding a second name to its bid. It's now
called "Stockholm Are 2026," with Alpine skiing events taking place in the
resort of Are, 541 kilometers (336 miles) northwest of the Swedish capital.
The IOC is scheduled to select the host cities in June.
"It wouldn't surprise me if in the future there is a two-nation bid," Malago
Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director, said the IOC "should
consider regional bids," adding, "we could brand the games differently by the
name of a region."
The Italian bid was originally slated to also include Turin before the 2006
host was left out amid a political squabble. But Malago left room for Turin to
move back into consideration with its speedskating oval.
"This is the dossier for now and we're convinced we can win with this dossier,"
Malago said. "But recent history shows us that new opportunities arise once
you've been assigned the games."
Tokyo, which will host the upcoming 2020 Summer Games, has changed or altered
nearly a third of the venues from its original bid --- and its budget has more
Milan-Cortina plans for a budget of 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion), 900,000
euros of which would be covered by IOC contributions.
Italy is anxious to bring a bid through the entire process after two Rome
candidacies were withdrawn.
Three years ago, Italy was forced to end Rome's bid for the 2024 Summer
Olympics because of staunch opposition from the city's mayor. And in 2012,
then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city's candidacy for the 2020 Olympics
because of financial concerns.
Malago would not even consider the possibility of another rejection.
"There will not be another 'No' because the boat has already left the port," he
said. "Other countries don't have our volatility in terms of saying yes or no.
But they have a different problem --- referendums. And I'm not sure which one
Calgary was also in the running for 2026 until it withdrew after voters
rejected the bid in a referendum. Likewise, a half-dozen European bidders
withdrew from contention for the 2022 Winter Games. They were awarded to
Beijing, which won by four votes over Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The biggest concern for Milan-Cortina might be an ongoing conflict with the
government over the distribution of financial funding for domestic sports.
Under current conditions, CONI decides how to divide the more than 400 million
euros ($450 million) in annual funding from the government between the various
national sports federations. If the function is removed, it would greatly
reduce CONI's power.
But the government on Thursday sent a letter of support for the bid to the IOC.
"This government knows that one of the strongest --- if not the strongest ---
factors of our bid is the strength of our Olympic committee," said Malago, who
recently became the 22nd Italian member in IOC history --- and one of three
current Italian members.
While Malago lives in Rome, he also has homes in Milan and Cortina.
"I have a complete conflict of interest," he acknowledged. "I was practically
born in Cortina. I've been going there since I was 5."
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
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