Excited members of the Italian delegation erupted with shouts of “Italia! Italia!” as the International Olympic Committee announced Monday that Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo would host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The decision, which came down to either Stockholm and Are in Sweden or the northern Italian region, was announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, and marks the Games’ return to Italy for the first time since 2006, when they were held in Turin. Cortina d’Ampezzo, an Alpine ski resort, hosted the Winter Games in 1956.
Monday’s choice reflects a move to split hosting duties between regions or countries rather than confining them to a single city as the cost of staging the Games skyrockets.
Representatives from Milan believed after last month’s evaluation by a panel that they had the strongest bid, but Italy has had serious economic problems and is carrying a debt load that is the second highest in Europe, behind only Greece. By selecting Italy, the IOC handed a significant challenge to a country saddled with aging infrastructure and weakened by years of economic stagnation. Italy’s government has recently unnerved investors — and the European Union — with its populist spending plans, which threaten to increase one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens.
But Italian officials have stressed that the Games will take place in the country’s relatively prosperous northern region, an area with busy airports, a network of high-speed trains and plenty of options for visitors.
In a 39-page dossier describing its bid, Italy used the word “sustainability” more than two dozen times. Italy has suggested using two existing sites for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies: a soccer stadium and a first-century Roman amphitheater.
After the announcement was made, Italy’s nationalist deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, the country’s most prominent politician, tweeted a photo of himself unfurling the Italian flag and raising his fist in triumph. He said the Winter Olympics would bring 5 billion euros in “added value” and produce 20,000 jobs.
“The winners are Italy, the future, and sports,” Salvini said.
Italy had withdrawn from an acrimonious bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, when Rome’s mayor called the Games a “dream-turned-nightmare” with white elephant construction projects and “cathedrals in the desert.”
Still, Italians have shown their enthusiasm for hosting these Games, with more than 80 percent in favor of the bid, according to polls. Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister, said the country was “united and unanimous.”
In recent years, Italy has become more politically divided, a transformation resembling that of the United States. Italy’s most popular party, the far-right League, has closed the door to migrants and pledged to put “Italians First.”
Pietro Fariselli, a ski instructor from Milan, said he felt “joy and great emotion” about Italy’s winning bid, in part because “sports overcomes every barrier.”
“As of late there has been an unpleasant drift toward being unwelcoming toward others,” Fariselli said. “Instead, through sports, we can join everybody under a bigger flag and a bigger spirit.”
Sweden mounted a late campaign in which the mayor of Stockholm appealed to voters by singing Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” It, too, had hoped to put on Games that were environmentally friendly and emphasized sustainability at a responsible expense. “Sustainability,” Richard Brisius, CEO of the bid, said this month, “is in our DNA.” Latvia was part of the Swedish bid, with the plan calling for ice sliding sports to be held across the Baltic Sea in a cost-saving move.
The IOC has promised to contribute at least $925 million toward costs of up to $1.7 billion, with the construction of athlete villages the main expense.
The 2022 Winter Games will be in Beijing. Tokyo will host the next Summer Olympics, the 2020 Games, with Paris the site of the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles following in 2028.
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report from Rome.
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