The Winter Olympic Games are returning to Europe in 2026. Northern Italy’s world-class ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Dolomites, and the fashion/economic powerhouse of Milan will co-host the games. The two sites are about 220 miles apart. Cortina will host alpine ski racing and curling, with Milan focusing on skating and ice hockey. Other snowsports are slated for several alpine villages in between.
The IOC had narrowed the potential sites to two contenders—a joint bid from the Swedish resort town of Åre and the country’s capital, Stockholm, and Milan-Cortina. Both regions have long, colorful histories in winter sports and extremely enthusiastic fan bases. According to the IOC, there were 47 votes in favor of the Italian bid versus 34 votes for the Swedish proposal. Sweden’s efforts were stoked by a last-minute appeal by the mayor of Stockholm (“ABBA is everywhere,” she explained before singing lines from Dancing Queen, one of the most famous songs of the iconic Swedish pop group), but the promise of the longer days and sunnier weather of the Italian Dolomites prevailed. The IOC has committed to providing at least $925 million toward Italy’s potential Games budget of up to $1.7 billion. The IOC decision means Milan-Cortina will also host the Paralympic Winter Games 2026.
The multi-city Olympic venue isn’t new. In 1956, Australia’s strict equine quarantine laws caused the equestrian competition of the Melbourne Olympics to be held in Stockholm. But for 2026, it’s a result of the Olympic Game’s restructured bidding process, called the “New Norm.” The New Norm is based on 118 reforms that were implemented to check sky-rocketing costs and the excessive building of soon-to-be abandoned venues that critics argued hurt, rather than helped, Olympic cities.
Italy has hosted two previous Winter Games—in Torino in 2006, and in Cortina in 1956. The 1944 Winter Olympic Games were slated for Cortina but were cancelled due to WWII.
Cortina is known for the pink-hued limestone of the Dolomites and ever-flowing pink prosecco. It’s also home to one of the raddest downhill and Super G courses in the world. These races generally take place on the crazy-steep Olimpia delle Tofane slope. It’s arguably the most spectacular setting in alpine racing, with the shark-toothed Dolomites looming above. The downhill race starts at 7,612-feet and finishes at 5,118—a terrifying, icy 2,493-foot drop.
“Cortina is one of my favorite stops on the women’s World Cup tour,” says two-time Olympian and U.S. Ski Team member Laurenne Ross. “From the Dolomite peaks to the town’s unique vibe to the course preparation, not many places beat Cortina. The snow conditions are always impeccable, the downhill course is fast and fun. The gorgeous mountain peaks, and the best-in-the-world pizza make Cortina the perfect spot for the Olympics.”
IOC President, George Bach, said that one reason the Games were awarded to Milan-Cortina is the promise of sustainability. “We can look forward to outstanding and sustainable Olympic Winter Games in a traditional winter sports country,” says Bach. According to Bach, the Cortina-Milan venue will incorporate 93-percent of “existing or temporary competition venues.” That means 13 out of 14 of the venues slated for the Milan-Cortina Games already exist (including the site of the closing ceremonies—the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30). The Games are scheduled to start on February 6 at the San Siro stadium, home of the AC Milan and Inter Milan soccer teams.