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  • Milan and Stockholm: A Great Race


    IOC Pres. Thomas Bach says the race between Milan and Stockholm was a great one. (ATR)
    (ATR) -- IOC Pres. Bach tells Around the Rings the Milan - Cortina race contest showed how to translate Olympic Agenda 2020 into  Olympic Games.

    Defying odds and with a team effort from politicians to athletes to sport leaders -- and 83 percent public support – the bid from Milan-Cortina will bring the Olympic Winter Games back to Italy in 2026.

    Milan-Cortina defeated Stockholm 47-34 Monday in Lausanne.

    The Italian victory means a return to historic Cortina, where young athletes will race the slopes and compete on a bobsleigh track used 70 years earlier in 1956. The Games also return to Italy 20 years after the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics. 

    Giovanni Malago, IOC member, bid leader, and possible future head of the organizing committee, thanked the members of his team. They ranged from Veneto and Lombardy presidents Luca Zaia and Attila Fontana to Olympic champions Sofia Goggia and Arianna Fontana.

    “I have so many things to say, but I’m really emotional,” Malago said at a news conference shortly after the announcement. “This is a very important result not only for me, but for the whole country.”

    “This is a true effort and in particular, I’m really proud of this fantastic team that we created all together without any differences."

    Malago said a pivotal point in Italy’s presentation was a speech by teen-aged short track speed skater Elisa Confortola. An athlete-oriented and youth-centric theme was a primary focus of Italy’s bid.

    Queried about young Italian athletes who will now have a golden opportunity to compete in the historic winter sports village of Cortina, Malago replied: “We respect our history, we respect our tradition, but at the same time, we are projected to the future – this was the message and I think it is very important.”

    Bach responded to a question from Around the Rings by praising both bids.

    “It was a great race and a great race for the two cities, and a great race for the Olympic movement,” Bach said. “You had two cities who both represented in an extraordinary way how to translate Olympic Agenda 2020 in an Olympic Games.

    “You saw focus on sustainability, you saw cost-reduction, great use of existing facilities, you saw the enthusiasm of athletes for this project, so I can only congratulate Milan-Cortina and recognize Stockholm-Are.”

    Eight-time short track speed skating Olympic
    Signing the host city contract. (ATR)
    medalist Fontana, who also presented to the IOC, said it was a nerve-wracking road to victory.

    “When president Bach said Milano-Cortina, it was an explosion of emotions.

    Fontana said the lengthy distances between the venue clusters will not present problems for those competing and allow fans to see “more of Italy and its valleys.”

    “The venues are spread out, but for athletes it's not a big deal because we plan to have Olympic villages and hotels close to the venues,” Fontana said. “We wanted the athletes to be at the center of the bid and have every comfort they can get.”

    Ivo Ferriani, Italian IOC member and president of the International bobsleigh and skeleton federation, says he is thrilled that athletes will once again race on Cortina’s classic bobsleigh track -- even though it comes with a 50 million Euro price tag to renovate. The venue has been closed since 2008 due to high maintenance costs.

    “Now comes another challenge – we have to deliver the Games,” Ferriani said of Milan-Cortina’s victory. “I’m sure we will absolutely work every minute to create great Games.”

    “The bobs and skeleton community, and I’m sure the lugers, are absolutely delighted to come back to Cortina – it is our roots like Lake Placid in the U.S. or St. Moritz,” he added.

    Peter Eriksson of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered a candid assessment as to why the bid may have lost.

    “We gave presentations that I think normally should have been enough, but we feel the situation maybe was that we embraced the new rules from Sweden’s side, more sustainable and much lower costs and budgets, but not the state guarantees that increase the costs enormously as in past years,” he said.

    “Maybe it was easier to pick the Italian government’s guarantees, but I think we embraced the rules in another way than maybe the IOC members did themselves.”

    Prince Feisal, IOC member in Jordan, seemed to be upset at the decision of Milan over Stockholm, responding tersely: "I'm not going to--they both fought good fights."

    He continued briefly and diplomatically: "at the end of the day the IOC chose what they thought was the better one." 

    Craig Reedie, who led the 2020 Evaluation Committee, said he has "sympathy" for Stockholm.

    "I thought [Stockholm] presented itself beautifully; oh well."

    However, Reedie said, it would not have been a good time to consider a joint decision similar to Paris and Los Angeles.

    "I think if you're going to change and try to reform the whole of the bidding process you'd probably be better off doing that first."

    Bach when asked what are the biggest challenges ahead for Milan-Cortina, said: “To survive the celebrations tonight.”

    Written by Ed Hula, Brian Pinelli and Edward Hula in Lausanne