Winter Olympics 2026: Milan-Cortina beats Stockholm-Are in bid to host Games

Lawrence Ostlere

Milan-Cortina has beaten a rival bid from Stockholm-Are to host the 2026 Winter Olympics after winning a vote by the International Olympic Committee, in what is likely to be the last Games to be determined in the traditional bidding style.

The organising teams made their final presentations during Monday’s marathon nine-hour convention in Lausanne, Switzerland, before votes were cast by Committee members.

The two multi-location bids from Italy and Sweden were broadly similar, with both plans built around the IOC’s Agenda 2020 and New Norm policies which stress the importance sustainability, but Milan-Cortina slowly emerged as the favourite in recent weeks due to its more reliable financial pledges from both public and private means, compared to Stockholm-Are’s more unpredictable fully private-finance model reliant upon “letters of intent” to invest in the Games.

The vast expenses required to host an Olympic Games had come under scrutiny during the bidding process when the inhabitants of a series of cities around the world voted in local plebiscites against submitting a formal bid, including Calgary in Canada, host of the 1988 Winter Games, with spiralling costs at the heart of public concerns. The remaining two bids both projected budgets of £1.5bn, a huge drop from Sochi 2018’s eventual £50bn spend, with the use of existing venues crucial to fitting the IOC’s demands.

Stockholm’s organisers planned to use a sliding facility in Lativa – something that would have been damaging to a bid in years gone by but which was viewed as a flexible and sustainable solution in the current climate. They also played heavily on Sweden’s history with the Olympics, having hosted the 1912 summer Games and as one of the few major winter-sport nations not to have hosted a Winter Games, with Crown Princess Victoria giving her backing to the bid.

But historical and emotional factors are less important now, and Milan was deemed to be the bid with the best combination of organisation and efficiency to pull off a simple but successful Olympics, which will take place in a string of clustered locations across the Italian Alps stretching from Milan in the west to the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the east, close to the Austrian border.

Earlier in the day it was announced that the San Siro, home of Serie A clubs AC and Inter Milan and the planned venue for the opening ceremony, is to be knocked down and rebuilt by the two clubs. Games organisers are confident the new stadium will be ready in time for 6 February 2026.

It is likely to be the final time a host city is selected via this kind of bidding process, as the IOC instead plans to create a dedicated panel to assess potential host cities and make a recommendation.