The 2026 Winter Olympics: Doom or Boon or Doom and Gloom?
Ever since the Olympics were awarded by the IOC to Milan and Cortina, Mountain Wilderness has always maintained that all promises of sustainability would be betrayed, that the costs to the community would be far from those budgeted, that all procedures put in place to guarantee environmental protection (SEA) would be carefully circumvented. Luigi Casanova, Honorary President of the Italian chapter of Mountain Wilderness, has written a book, “Ombre sulla neve” (lit. Shadows on the snow), that lays bare the lies behind the claims of ‘zero-cost and sustainable’ Olympics.
The closer we get to 2026, the more the facts are proving Mountain Wilderness is right. Let us see why.
Zero-cost Olympics? Goal failed
In June 2019, the IOC decided the venue for the 2026 Winter Olympics: Milan-Cortina won, thanks to a dossier that even environmentalists would probably have accepted.
The Olympics would not burden Italy by a single cent. Now, as of February 2023, the Winter Olympics will cost Italy and its regions €4.2 billion (DPCM September 26, 2022).
Sustainable Olympics? Goal Failed.
The candidacy dossier provided for a prior SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) in compliance with European directives and national laws, as well as SEAs for all works to be carried out. Moreover, the Italian Olympics were meant to fulfil the principles of the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020, i.e. ensuring a participatory democratic process in view of the works’ social sustainability over time.
You will not be surprised to learn that none of the works underwent either an SEA, EIA or an environmental incidence assessment (V.Inc.A.). Simply put: the buzzword sustainability was nothing but a smokescreen.
Works already in place? Goal failed.
The candidacy dossier claims that 92% of Olympic venues are already built and that they only need minimal upgrading. Nothing could be falser. Most of the competition facilities need to be rebuilt from scratch: bobsleigh and skeleton track in Cortina, biathlon centre in Anterselva (Bozen), ski jumps in Predazzo (Trento), cross-country centre in Tesero (Trento), Milan’s ice arenas (Arena 1 and Arena 2), figure skating and hockey, Milan’s Olympic village, Cortina’s Olympic village, Predazzo’s Olympic village, speed skating stadium, might be moved to the 2006 Turin Olympic Oval or a temporary facility. The rest need costly interventions and more space.
Transparency and participation? Goals failed.
The dossier claims all plans will be shared and discussed with the local population through broad participatory processes. This did not happen. All projects have been secreted and participatory processes have been cancelled. No investments are earmarked in improving public services (mobility, health, education, job training).
Legacy? Goal failed.
The IOC recommends that all Olympic works have a long-lasting positive impact on the surrounding area for future generations. None of the works underwent a legacy assessment.
The Olympic package also includes many works that have nothing to do with the sporting event. In short: Italy took advantage of the Winter Olympics to build roads that would otherwise never have been built. The railway represents a minimal investment.
Expansion of ski resorts and new cable car connections have been included too, ranging from the Dolomites, across EU protected Natura 2000 sites, to Stelvio National Park.
The list could go on and on, but one thing is clear: the Alps are facing another threat, besides climate change. A threat that happens to be just as man-made as the former.
(Re-edited article. Original article in Italian language, on MW Italy’s website. Link: https://www.mountainwilderness.it/editoriale/le-olimpiadi-invernali-milano-cortina-2026-una-sciagura-per-le-alpi-italiane/)