MILAN — Speed skating for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics might be moved to the 2006 Turin Olympic oval or a temporary facility elsewhere after the IOC rejected plans to build an expensive roof over the outdoor track at Baselga di Piné.
Costs for the roof were initially slated at $54 million, according to a project announced in November. But there were concerns that actual costs could rise by at least 50%.
“The IOC said the investment was underestimated and not sustainable for the area and the IOC reserves the right to point the way in terms of executing the Games,” said Giovanni Malagò, president of both the 2026 organizing committee and the Italian Olympic Committee.
“I defended the original masterplan but there comes a time when you can no longer defend the undefendable,” Malagò added. “Everything that has happened since then, from COVID to the war (in Ukraine), has gone against us. Baselga is not a victim but rather one of the issues that arise systematically during the organization of an international event like the Olympics.”
While officials in the Trentino region are still hoping to rebuild the Baselga track, Malagò said Friday during a visit to the oval that he’s hoping Trentino and Lombardy can bid to host the Youth Winter Olympics for 2028.
Building a roof over the Baselga track was part of the plan when Milan-Cortina was awarded the Games in 2019 but not included in the official budget in an era of increasing sensitivity about the cost of staging the Olympics.
There have been calls from the start of Italy’s 2026 bid to hold speed skating at the existing indoor oval built for the 2006 Turin Games. The last Olympics to hold speed skating outdoors, where weather can affect ice conditions and therefore results, was the 1992 Albertville Games.
“It’s not automatic,” Malagò said about the possible move to Turin. “We will discuss all of the different possibilities.”
Outdoor ice is notoriously tough to keep in shape for all competitors to have a fair chance at a medal.
High temperatures made matters challenging in Albertville, where one recurring term was “slush,” with skaters ploughing through soft ice that sometimes had a thin sheet of water on top.
Over longer distances, when a competition session can take two hours, conditions at outdoor tracks can change to the extent that gold can depend as much on the starting time as on four years of preparation.
Ice-making facilities were removed from the Turin oval and it would cost an estimated $16 million to reinstall the system.
Besides Turin, other possibilities might include building a temporary track inside a convention center in the Lombardy or the Veneto regions that contain Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, respectively.
Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Turin candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September 2018, Turin dropped out after political infighting, when a senior Italian official declared the bid “dead.”
But the bid pressed on as Milan-Cortina and beat a Swedish bid in the 2019 host election.
Turin is 85 miles southwest of Milan, which is 200 miles southwest of Cortina.
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