Milan-Cortina 2026, a marathon with a backpack
It’s time. Less than four years from the event, the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2026 Winter Games settled in Milan at the beginning of the week (pictured above). A three-day visit without an ounce of virtuality, the first since Italy was awarded the Olympic (February 6 to 22, 2026) and Paralympic (March 6 to 15) meetings.
According to the official speech, everything is in order. Or almost. At the end of the visit, the IOC issued a long press release whose tone and wording did not deviate from the norm in such cases. He explained that the coordination commission, headed by former Finnish walker Sari Essayah, has “sets priorities for Milan-Cortina 2026 during its transition“.
The formula is known. But reading the priorities in question says a lot about the scale of the work to be done in the next three years and a few weeks. As the IOC spells it, the Italians will have to focus for the next few months on “the development of the national program of partners, the optimization of the budget, the development of preparations in the sites and the strengthening of the team in charge of the Olympic project.”
In other words, theirpriorities” concerns not only some aspects of the project, but almost all of it. Marketing, budget, competition areas and human resources. Loud.
A few weeks earlier, another file was placed at the top of the IOC’s list: the recruitment of a general manager. But it has been fixed now. After an endless search for the rare bird, which has long been hampered by uncertainty and political struggle, Milan-Cortina 2026 entrusted the keys of its organizing committee to Andrea Varnier.
According to everyone, he will be the best pick in this stage of preparation. “The committee welcomes experience (by Andrea Varnier) within the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, and the vision and energy he expressed in our meetingsSari Essayah suggested. Such qualities will give the team the necessary boost to advance the preparations for the Games..”
Same story with Giovanni Malagò, the president of Milan-Cortina 2026 and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). “Andrea Varnier is the light at the end of the tunnelhe assured in a press conference. His collaboration as a CIO advisor and his experience of more than 30 years in the sector are key to accelerating our roadmap. His appointment is a major step.”
Andrea Varnier, 59, appointed last month to replace Vincenzo Novari as general manager, is director of image and events for the Torino 2006 Winter Games. He then worked for several years as a consultant to the IOC, including ceremonies and events.
However, Milan-Cortina remains far behind in passing times. Giovanni Malagò agrees: the last three years have often looked like an obstacle, between the health crisis, political instability and rapid inflation.
“Since we won the Games, I have met four governments, four different institutions and structures, four people to deal with… Not to mention COVID, inflation and the global crisissaid the Italian leader at a press conference. It’s like running a marathon with a backpack. Today I am happy because the appointment of Andrea Varnier finally shows that the government is on board… We all know very well what the difficulties and problems are, but I think most of them will be solved soon .”
The end of the tunnel? Can. But the backpack opened by Giovanni Malagò remains heavy to carry. Three years and less than two months from the Olympic Games, Milan-Cortina 2026 has only three national partners – Deloitte, Esselunga and Randstad – and only one Paralympic supporter, Ottobock.
In the question of sites, one question mark attracts all eyes: the San Siro stadium in Milan. The 80,000-seat venue was supposed to host the Olympics’ opening ceremony, but its two resident clubs, AC Milan and Inter, are both toying with plans to build their own stadiums.
Giovanni Malagò agrees: the file is not his. “But let’s repeat it from the beginning, this is not something that worries us, although we are obviously very attentive viewers, he explained. But all options will suit us: the current San Siro with some things to fix, or a new San Siro, although we don’t know if it will be ready in time. We won’t say it, we trust the management of the city.”