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MILANO CORTINA 2026 CEO ANDREA VARNIER SPEECH AT THE 141ST IOC SESSION

October 16 2023

The full speech delivered by Milano Cortina 2026 CEO Andrea Varnier during the 141st IOC Session held in Mumbai, India.

MILANO CORTINA 2026 CEO ANDREA VARNIER SPEECH AT THE 141ST IOC SESSION

Please find below the full speech delivered by Milano Cortina 2026 CEO Andrea Varnier during the 141st IOC Session held in Mumbai, India, today October 16th 2023:

“Together we win”.  

…with these words I’d like to begin my speech, this morning, greeting and thanking you for the intense work that we have been carrying out together in these last months. 

An intensive time for our organization, made of constructive criticisms and encouragements; choices and established routes. Despite all the obstacles, we are happy with what we have achieved. Many challenges are still there, of course, but we are now more confident to be able to face them.

Milano Cortina 2026, will be a widespread Edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Over 22 thousand square kilometers of beauty and excellence. 

To all intents and purposes, the most widespread edition of the Games ever, and not only at a territorial level, but also in terms of the local communities involved. 

An element of uniqueness: a model developed in the name of sustainability that maximizes the great skills and know-how that our territories can already offer in the realm of winter sports. This human treasure, perfected through the Olympic experience, will become a concrete and long-lasting legacy. 

The same uniqueness represents, on one hand, an unprecedented challenge introducing new organizational and operational complexities. But at the same time, it breaks the ground for an innovative delivery model and makes the journey even more fascinating for all of us, including the IOC and the IPC, the Italian Olympic and Paralympic committees, and the entire world of sport represented by the International Federations.

We have only 844 days ahead of us to create the magic once again. The Games will embrace the world, making every single person feel like a protagonist of a great story of inclusion, passion, and resilience.  

Along with the athletes, people will be the center stage of our project.  The goal is to make Milano Cortina 2026 “everyone’s Games”. We are projected towards the future, strong in our roots, yet well aware of the positive changes we can bring. 

The Italian 2026 Winter Games will embrace many different cultures overarching the Alps. The beauty of cities and mountains is framed by a millennial history, but also nourished by incredibly modern elements, such as fashion, design, the excellency of our territories in terms of tourist attractions and reception, food, wine, and an amazing sense of hospitality. 

A natural theater for the Winter Games, with a strong tradition in winter sports, a fascinating orchestra of communities, playing together in the name of the Olympic and Paralympic values.  

Two cities, Milano and Cortina, with different rhythms and vocations, are walking side by side, on the same path, towards the same objectives. Two regions, Lombardy and Veneto, the heart of the Italian economy, a blend of heritage and innovation. Two autonomous provinces, Trento and Bolzano, with their array of traditions and languages – Italian and German mixing with the ancient Ladin – are a concrete testimony of the dynamic and inclusive features of these Games. 

We want to represent the NEW ITALIAN SPIRIT, rooted in tradition but projected towards the future. A vibrant and dynamic spirit that will offer an incredible experience for the athletes, the Olympic and Paralympic family, our stakeholders and the spectators. And, above all, for the younger generations to whom the Games want to speak. 

This is our new IDENTITY in which this New Italian Spirit becomes a manifesto, the driving force behind our project: a spirit at the service of sport!

This is why our Games must and want to engage not only the Olympic territories but our entire nation and create a contagious excitement throughout the world.  

As an example, with our EDUCATION PROGRAMME, we reach out to the Italian schools, sending our positive messages to the younger generations, stimulating their resilience and desire for new opportunities, towards a future as protagonists.

A future where sport can be the engine of a more open, inclusive, and dynamic society. 

In the first months of 2023 alone: 

  • We met and told our story to more than 100,000 students.
  • We involved school from the entire country in the Mascot Design Process.
  • We forecast to reach 200,000 students by the beginning of 2024.

More than 80% of Italians declare themselves in favor of the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games and are aware to be part of the most important sporting event that our country will host for years to come.  

Milano Cortina 2026 is a window open to the world, an engaging event with a seat in the front row for everyone.

  • More than 300,000 fan team members.
  • 300,000 followers on social platforms, only from organic growth.
  • Over 60,000 followers involved on Instagram in our digital challenges.
  • An engagement rate of 4% 

These are just some of our current numbers, concrete testimonies of public interest that show the Italians’ genuine desire to embrace the Games and an excellent platform to continue our engagement programme.

With a shared objective of national and international involvement, the Italian Government is present and very active at our side. This represents a key element for our project, since it confirms once again the profound importance that the Games bear for our country. While the Organizing Committee is working daily with the Ministry of Sport and Youth in charge of overseeing the Games, prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently reiterated the support of all National Institutions, including the activation of a periodical round table coordinating the Olympic and Paralympic works and other institutional needs.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Meloni, recently gathered in Rome the top management of all the leading Italian companies, to support our sponsorship program

Over the years, the Government progressively allocated 3.4 billion euros to build a series of infrastructures functional to the Games. These investments, of course, are not destined to the Organizing Committee, but to the financing of public works that will favor the delivery of the Games, improve the infrastructures of our territories and become a structural legacy for their populations. 

As for our specific responsibilities, despite several hurdles, the works on all the venues are entirely financed and are now proceeding, according to schedule. Of course, I will not indulge on the Sliding Center project that President Malagò has just covered (read President Malagò speech).

The Olympic village in Milano construction is ahead of schedule and represents an excellent example of “reverse engineering”: it was conceived from the very beginning as a modern residential complex for young people and students, it will host approximately 1600 athletes for the duration of the Games, and then it will be returned to the community as a precious legacy.  

The Cortina Curling Stadium, the Hockey 1 Arena and the Fairground in Milano are the perfect images of our concrete commitment, and of our search for new types of venues and investments that can represent positive benchmarks for the future. In particular, the works for the temporary venues for Speedskating and Hockey 2, hosted in a wider and more flexible pavilion at the main Milanese Fairground, represent in fact a legacy for the economic system of the city of Milano.  

Part of our legacy also includes the Predazzo ski jumping hill and the renovation of Anterselva Biathlon Arena: a further improvement of facilities that already host international events since many years and that, from 2026 onwards, will be sporting excellences left in the availability of the world of winter sports. 

A special mention deserves the Arena di Verona, one of the oldest roman amphitheaters in the world, still in operation, a site of incomparable beauty and history that will host the Olympic Closing Ceremony and the Paralympic opening ceremony.

Thanks to the Games, a financial investment of 18 million euros will guarantee greater accessibility to this 2000 years old venue. A unique project of inclusion that will grant greater opportunities to fully enjoy such a world-famous living monument.  

Another significant progress has been recorded, in the current year, regarding our Domestic Sponsorships program: the signing of important agreements with seven major companies such as ENI, Armani, Consorzio Prosecco, Grana Padano, Herbalife, Salesforce and another one that will be officially announced tomorrow were prestigious additions to our partners’ lineup.

Many advanced contract negotiations, with major national companies, are underway.

We are therefore confident, in the coming months, to bring other prestigious partners on board. We fully understand our partners play a fundamental part in creating engagement, but we also understand their fundamental role to guarantee the economic and financial sustainability of the Games. 

The Candidature business plan of Milano Cortina 2026 projected an overall budget of around 1.5 billion euros.

In December 2022, with the change of governance within the Organizing Committee, we started a new in-depth analysis of the budget, working to define updated economic and financial objectives for each functional area.

The world has totally changed since 2019. The pandemic, then war, global turmoil, inflation, increased cost of energy and raw materials have made our challenge more and more difficult. But our goal for us, all of us, remains the same: confirm the final budget target between 1.5 and 1.6 billion euros.  

We believe this would be an enormously significant success, as a testimony of a possible financial sustainability of the Winter Games. But this result can only be achieved with the support of all parties involved beginning of course with the IOC, and our Coordination Commission, with whom we are committed on a daily joined effort. On our side we are already working hard in the direction of optimization and rationalization to increase flexibility and efficiency.

In conclusion, let me highlight what I consider one apparently small, but fundamental step in our journey: in July we finally started the works of our Athletes Commission. An indispensable guidance for Milano Cortina 2026. 

The athletes are the center of our project. They will be the protagonists of Milano Cortina 2026, the Winter Games with the highest gender balance ever: young women and men who will inspire and excite the public with their feats and personalities.

Each functional area of the Organizing Committee is, and will remain, focused on the goal of supporting all our 3500 athletes who will compete in our venues and populate our Olympic and Paralympic Villages.  

We want to offer to each one of them, coming from more than 90 nations, to their teams and families and to the entire Olympic movement, an example of our New Italian Spirit: a memorable and vibrant experience of sport, friendship, beauty, and inclusion.

Read moreMilan-Cortina 2026

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