2026 Olympics in Milan-Cortina
by Martin Merk|24 JUN 2019
The new PalaItalia in the Santa Giulia area of Milan will be the main ice hockey arena for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
photo: CONI
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The 134th IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland, today awarded the hosting of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to Milan-Cortina, Italy.

“Congratulazioni to the winning bid from Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo! The IIHF is looking forward to organizing the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments in this beautiful Italian city. We have very fond memories of Turin 2006, and we are excited that the Winter Olympics will come back to Italy once again!” said IIHF President RenĂ© Fasel, who attended the session as an IOC Member.

While the ice hockey family continues preparations for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing with the first qualification tournaments in the new season, the future host has now been set.  

The final race had two bids remaining with the Italian Milan-Cortina bid getting 47 votes and the Swedish bid of Stockholm-Are getting 34 votes. The Olympics will take place from 6 to 22 February 2026 while the Paralympic Winter Games are scheduled for 6-15 March 2026.
“Both projects prioritise legacy and sustainability by capitalising on winter sports tradition and experience, with first-rate, established World Cup venues, knowledgeable and passionate fans, volunteers and event organisers,” said Octavian Morariu, the chairman of the IOC Evaluation Committee, when the report on the bids was published one month ago. “They have fully embedded the Olympic Agenda 2020 philosophy, and have athletes at the centre of their plans.”

Indeed both countries have a legacy in winter sports. Italy previously hosted the Olympic Winter Games two times in Cortina 1956 and Turin 2006. The country previously hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship twice with Milan as the main venue in 1934 and 1994. Italy joined the IIHF already in 1924 when it competed in the European Championship. Its best finish was fourth in the 1929 European Championship in Hungary, sixth at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in 1994 and seventh at an Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament – also on home ice in 1956. Ice hockey is popular in the Alpine regions of South Tyrol, Trentino and Veneto as well as in Milan and some other cities of the Lombardy province.

Sweden is a top country in ice hockey – with 11 men’s World Championship titles and two Olympic gold medals and in many other winter sports – but still has never hosted the Olympic Winter Games before, something the Swedes wanted to change with the bid. Sweden hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship 11 times including with Stockholm as one of the host cities in 1949, 1954, 1969, 1970, 1981, 1989, 1995, 2012 and 2013 (two years of co-hosting with Helsinki, Finland). The latter four took place at the Ericsson Globe arena that was opened for the 1989 Worlds and served as main ice hockey venue in Sweden’s Olympic bid. Sweden was recently also awarded the right to host the 2025 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The cities are to be determined and the Swedish Ice Hockey Association announced its intention for a co-hosting project with Denmark.

Both bids were focusing on using existing arenas and winter sport venues more than in the previous years to offer more affordable and sustainable Olympic Winter Games and win the hearts of the people and governments.

Also the Milan-Cortina bid is focusing on existing venues in most cases. The only new venue will be a state-of-the-art multi-functional arena that Italy’s second-largest city is currently missing and is being planned by private investors as part of a larger development project at Santa Giulia. The 15,000-seat PalaItalia in the southeast of the city will be used as the primary ice hockey venue for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games and will leave a legacy as the city doesn’t have an indoor venue of this size right now.

The arena will be located nearby the Rogoredo station from where it is 15 minutes to the city centre by metro and by train one hour to Turin and three hours to Rome. The Linate airport is a 10-minute ride away. The project also includes 3,900 apartments, a hotel, a mall, offices and a 380,000-square-metre urban parc.

Milan is Italy’s second-most populous city with 1.4 million inhabitants in the city proper and 3.2 million in the metropolitan area. The city is regarded as Italy’s financial capital and world-famous for fashion. The city will host the sports of ice hockey, figure skating and short track while other sports will be held in the north-east of the country in Cortina, Val di Fiemme, Livigno, Bormio and Antholz.

The second ice hockey venue in the bid is a disused arena recently known as PalaSharp (but will be named Milan Hockey Arena) that was built 1986 and has been used mostly for basketball and concerts in the past. After renovation works it would serve as second venue for ice hockey as well as for ice sledge hockey at the Paralympics and offer a capacity for 7,000 fans.

It is located next to the Lampugnano metro station and not far from the famous 80,000-seat football stadium Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro area that will host the opening ceremony while the closing ceremony is planned at the spectacular Roman amphitheatre of Verona.

The Olympic Village for Milan will be located in Porta Romana and will be converted into a residential campus for students post-Games.