(WFI) Milan’s iconic San Siro Stadium seems like the perfect venue for an opening ceremony should Milan-Cortina win its bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.

Milan’s iconic San Siro Stadium could be home to the 2026 opening ceremony

(WFI)The 80,000-capacity stadium – which is home to the AC Milan and Inter Milan football clubs – was opened in 1926 and remains a city landmark. It received upgrades for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and once again for the 2016 Champions League.

However, considering lengthy distances and multiple-hour drive times between other proposed venue cities such as Cortina d’Ampezzo, Bormio and Val di Fiemme, travel, logistics and accommodations involved with a Milan opening ceremony would seem to be complex. Especially if athletes are preparing for or competing in events over the days ahead.

The distance between Milan and Cortina is 421 kilometers (262 miles) and about a five-hour drive. Livigno to Milan is approximately four hours, while Val di Fiemme to Milan is roughly three hours. Based upon the bid book, only figure skaters, hockey players and short-track speed skaters will compete in Milan, a relatively small percentage of the total.

Using PyeongChang 2018 as reference, figure skaters, hockey players and short-track speed skaters comprised 767 of the total 2,922 athletes competing, only 26 percent of the overall number.

The IOC team and Milan-Cortina representatives at San Siro Stadium

(WFI) Members of the IOC Evaluation Commission continued their three-day venue inspection, alongside their Milan-Cortina 2026 hosts, with a visit to the venerable stadium on Thursday.

Commission Chair Octavian Morariu admitted that questions regarding the opening ceremony must be discussed and solved, but wasn’t overly worried about problems that the great distances would seem to present. 

“I think this is one of the important aspects of the opening ceremony – in the sense that there is a real concern, a positive concern for the athletes,” Morariu told journalists at San Siro Stadium. “We were explained about the surroundings and about all the temporary infrastructure that will be built around the stadium to host the athletes.

“We have no particular concern at the moment as far as if this aspect is envisaged. 

“We know that transportation is important for the athletes and we are looking forward to discussing more with our Italian colleagues in the bidding committee in our meeting tomorrow.”

Should athletes from other venue clusters opt to attend the opening ceremony, would they be given accommodations for one night, perhaps at the temporary infrastructure that Morariu mentions, or in the Olympic Village in Milan? The alternative would be a long, late night journey back to where they are being housed for the Games.

“This is a subject on the table obviously with the bidding committee and we know they are working hard on it,” Morariu added. “We have further discussions tomorrow for sure.”

Italian NOC president Giovanni Malago arrives at San Siro Stadium (ATR)Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago appears unworried, saying “Listen, I think that actually this is not a problem. For us, it is our mission to put all the athletes in the best solution with all the instruments of the possibility of transportation to be here for the opening ceremony.”

IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi pointed out that similar circumstances have been the case at other Games. However, the estimated 26 percent of athletes residing and competing in Milan seems to be unprecedented. Dubi assured solutions would be found. 

“This is not something that is unknown – in the context of the Summer Games, for example, you have the sailors and the issue if they can attend the ceremony and how can we accommodate,” Dubi said.

“The point here is that every athlete is welcome at the ceremony – this is a defining moment and it is great for San Siro to have and to add to the iconic dimension of the venue. 

“You want to make sure that the athletes can come and if they wish to do so we’ll find a way,” Dubi emphasized. “No doubt that they can be accommodated or transported back, but that is part of the details that have to be figured out.”

As a side note, Morariu mentioned the possibility that San Siro Stadium could be demolished and replaced by a new stadium located on the other side of the city. However, the aforementioned challenges would remain unchanged.

The IOC Evaluation Commission’s visit to Italy enters the homestretch on Friday with official meetings alongside their Italian hosts at the Palazzo Reale. 

Italian officials and Milan-Cortina leaders insist that Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to sign a letter guaranteeing federal support of the bid, including 415 million euros ($465.6 million) for security, before the IOC evaluation concludes on Saturday.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Milan

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