IOC and Italian government clash over Milano-Cortina 2026 bobsleigh track. GETTY IMAGES

Disagreement continues between the Italian government, which has signed the contract for the construction of the bobsleigh track, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has reiterated its opposition and called for a Plan B to be considered.

The controversy surrounding the construction of the bobsleigh track for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics continues, despite the Italian government signing a contract with the construction company on Friday to proceed with the project.

What could have been the end of the story, with the Italian government committing to the construction of the track and the construction company signing off on the project, did not end there. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken a dim view of the project, not only because of the environmental impact and unnecessary expenditure on a track that would be of limited use after the Games, but also because of the delivery deadline of March 2025.

The important announcement made by the Italian Ministers of Transport and Sport, Matteo Salvini and Andrea Abodi, did not put an end to the controversy surrounding the track to be built in the municipality of Cortina, northern Italy.

"The bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track for the Milano-Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be located in the municipality of Cortina," they announced in a joint press release. "This choice," they added, "puts an end to the issue and shows the extreme determination of this government to complete all the preparations for the Games in the best possible way and in Italy".

This announcement by a government unwilling to bear the political cost of being the first country unable to host the Winter Games entirely on its own soil, far from quelling criticism or ending the debate as expected, led the IOC to express its opposition.

It is true that the IOC has always been opposed to the idea, citing the high estimated cost of €82 million and what it sees as limited interest from the local community and athletes in building a track that would have little future use.

The Olympic body, through a spokesman, said it was "very concerned that the delivery (of the track) is respected by the deadline of March 2025, so that it can be validated and approved". The problem with the timetable is that there is no precedent for such rapid construction. "No bobsleigh track has ever been built in such a short time," says the IOC.

The Italian construction company Pizzarotti has 13 months to build a 1,445-metre track on land with an average gradient of 8.5%, 16 bends and special cooling systems.

The IOC's concerns are shared by the two interested international federations, the luge and bobsleigh/skeleton federations. "That is why the IOC has asked the Organising Committee to work on a Plan B in case of delays so that the events can take place," said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the 2026 Olympic Organising Committee declined to comment, referring to its press release issued at the end of its board meeting on Tuesday. The organisers said they were "optimistic" and that they were still working on a Plan B, i.e. moving to an existing track abroad, particularly in neighbouring Switzerland or Austria, as requested by the IOC.

Almost two years before the start of the Games (6-22 February 2026), the bobsleigh track is not the only problem. According to the Minister of Economy, Giancarlo Giorgetti, the slow progress of the other works could mean the loss of a historic opportunity for the European country.

Following the announcement by his government colleagues, he delivered a somewhat alarmist speech. "I am beginning to regret having contributed to the organisation of the Winter Olympics, because it is a great responsibility and I see that there are great difficulties. There are only two years left and what have we done? (...) The time for the infrastructure works is diminishing terribly and it is becoming almost impossible to meet it".

After this speech, which caused alarm in Italy, he clarified later in the evening that it was a joke and that he had done it to spur stakeholders into action. "I think it's a joke, but it's a joke to stimulate all the stakeholders, because if you look at the dates, the time that has passed and what's left, there's less and less time. It's not like any other work where you say 'oh well, there's a delay, sorry,' and that's the end of it. Here there is a date, and if we are not ready by that date, it all ends. So it is a responsibility of the country.