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OLYMPICS

Polls show Italians much more enthusiastic about 2026 Winter Games bid than Swedes

Support for Italy's bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo has grown with 83 percent of Italians now backing the project, according to poll carried out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Polls show Italians much more enthusiastic about 2026 Winter Games bid than Swedes
President of the Italian National Olympic Committee Giovanni Malago speaks during a visit of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the 2026 Winter Olympics games on Saturday. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP
By comparison, similar polls carried out in Sweden, where Stockholm is the only city in competition with Italy, put the figure at 53 percent.
 
IOC evaluation commission chairman Octavian Morariu revealed the Italian poll figures on Saturday after an inspection of proposed sites in the country's northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
 
Morariu described the joint bid by Italy's financial capital and Dolomites ski resort Cortina D'Ampezzo as a “very competitive proposition”.
 
“After our five days here, we can say that the overwhelming popular support demonstrated by the latest IOC poll is not a surprise,” Morariu told a press conference.
 
In Milan, 87 percent are in favour of the Olympics, while in the region of Lombardy, of which Milan is the capital, it was 81 percent and Cortina's Veneto region, 80 percent.
  
“Wherever we went we felt welcome,” continued Morariu of the visit which began in Venice.
 
Under the bid, figure skating, hockey and short-track speedskating would be held in Milan, with sliding sports and curling in Cortina; and speedskating, biathlon and Nordic sports would take place at Trentino-Alto Adige. The alpine skiing events would be in Bormio for the men and Cortina for women while the opening ceremony would be at the San Siro football stadium, with the closing ceremony at Verona's Arena, a large Roman amphitheatre.
 
“We found a great candidature team, that put a lot of passion and enthusiasm into the work,” said Morariu. “This is really very, very strong.”
 
'Financial boost' –
 
Despite darkening clouds gathering over Italy's economy, the Italian government on Friday officially provided the financial guarantees for the bid amounting to €415 million ($465 million).
 
“There's strong support from the government, local communities, athletes and the financial community,” said Morariu.  “The letter we received yesterday from the government proved it.” 
 
Former Romanian rugby international Morariu said the IOC would invest a further $920 million into the project.
 
“The Olympic Games are a catalyst for social and environmental change and also a true business opportunity,” he said.
 
Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala said local people overwhelmingly backed the project.
 
“We want to win!” said Sala. “The Olympic Games could provide a fundamental opportunity for our city.”
 
No formal backing in Sweden
 
Stockholm has yet to receive full backing from the Swedish government with the deadline for providing guarantees officially April 12.
 
“What matters is that we receive the guarantees in due time, have time to analyse them and have them approved by the committee by June 24,” said Morariu referring to the date when the winning bid will be chosen in Lausanne. “This is the date that matters.”
 
Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Giovanni Malago said they hoped that their “track record” would convince the IOC to choose them over Sweden.
 
“Italy has a long history of organising great sports events. We hope this tradition can continue in 2026,” added Malago.
 
Italy has hosted the Olympic three times, with the 1956 and 2006 Winter Games held in Cortina and Turin respectively, and Rome hosting the 1960 Summer Games.

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STOCKHOLM

The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations

Stockholm Olympic Stadium defied those who said Sweden wasn't advanced enough to host the Olympic Games in 1912, and has survived to become the world's oldest Olympic stadium actively in use.

The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations
Stockholm's Olympic Stadium as it used to look. Photo: Bertil Norberg/TT

This article was written for Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

Taking inspiration from the medieval city wall of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, Swedish architect and athlete Torben Grut designed a stadium for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm that would stand as a fortress of athleticism.

His success was both immediate and enduring, and the now-historic stadium has lived up to its impressive façade for more than a century, hosting countless sporting and cultural events, witnessing more than 80 athletic world records, surviving a bombing, and simply reminding the world of its important place in Olympic history.

Initially, however, the outlook for both the stadium and the Stockholm Olympics – the fifth modern Olympic games – was far from promising. As historian Therese Nordlund Edvinsson wrote in a 2014 article in The International Journal of the History of Sport, despite Sweden's “modest ambitions” for the games, “critics argued that the country was too undeveloped to arrange a major sport event”.

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Djurgården versus AIK in 1915 at Stockholm Stadium. Photo: TT

The original plan for the stadium was an accordingly modest – and temporary – whitewashed wooden structure. The decision to make it permanent was likely a relief to Grut, whose other designs included Solliden Palace, the summer residence of the Swedish royal family on the island of Öland. Though still relatively small, with an original seating capacity of around 20,000, the completed stadium became a model for subsequent Olympic stadiums. Likewise, and in defiance of the critics, the Stockholm Olympic Games were considered a great success.  

In a 2012 article entitled, “Stockholm 1912 set the gold standard for the modern Olympics,” in the British newspaper The Guardian, sports journalist Frank Keating wrote, “Stockholm's 1912 Games are still considered standard-setting for Olympic decades to come. Women's competition was allowed for swimming and diving, while men's boxing was banned: and on the track photo-finish electronic-timing was introduced as a back-up to the hand-held judges' stopwatch.” It was also, he explained, “the last Olympics where any individual could just turn up and hope to enter a competition”.

MORE HISTORY FEATURES BY VICTORIA MARTÍNEZ:


One of the numerous concerts organized at the Stockholm Stadium. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Over the years, the appearance of Stockholm Olympic Stadium has changed little, and the seating capacity has even been reduced. In 2011 and 2012, the stadium underwent its only major renovation in preparation for its centenary. Nonetheless, it has been an incredibly adaptable venue, serving for many years as home to Swedish football team Djurgårdens IF, and accommodating a wide variety of sporting and cultural events – from ice hockey to American football and from Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to Swedish DJ Avicii. It is also where the Stockholm Marathon ends each year.

The stadium has also maintained a long and at times somewhat chequered connection to the Olympic Games. In 1956, for instance, the equestrian events of the Summer Olympics taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were hosted some 15,000 kilometres away in Stockholm Olympic Stadium due to animal quarantine restrictions in Australia. And in August 1997, as Stockholm vied to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, the stadium was one of several sites in Sweden bombed or set alight by Swedish far-right extremists opposed to Sweden hosting the games.

READ ALSO: Polls suggest Italians much more enthusiastic about Olympic bid than Swedes

Although modern stadiums designed or used for the Summer Olympics now typically seat three to four times more people than Stockholm Olympic Stadium did in 1912, the historic venue still has a chance of returning to its Olympic origins. If Stockholm-Åre is selected to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, the snowboarding competitions are slated to take place in the landmark stadium, neatly tying together 114 years of Olympic history.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.

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