The floor-to-ceiling windows in Andrea Vernier’s 44th-floor office overlook Milan and part of the mountains that will host the 2026 Winter Olympics, but Vernier says the panorama isn’t for him. I joked that I didn’t. He is rarely in the office, he admits. He rarely uses his desk. He has no time to sit still, he says, shrugging his shoulders.
There are still nearly three years until the Milan/Cortina Winter Olympics. But Barnier, a veteran of past Olympics in Turin, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, knows better than anyone how fast those years go. He also knows how much work he has left to do.
Here’s what the Milan-Cortina organizers and the International Olympic Committee have planned for 2026. The Biggest Winter Games Ever: Figure skating and ice hockey in Milan, an international city in northern Italy. Freestyle skiing and snowboarding in Livigno near the Swiss border. Biathlon in Anterselva, a German-speaking country in the shadow of Austria. Host of the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina d’Ampezzo offers curling, bobsled and alpine skiing.
Good news? About 90 percent of the venues for the Games already exist, according to Olympic officials. bad person? at least two major components, the Olympic Village and the hockey field, still in the early stages of constructionlarger projects such as highways and rail links are outside the control of the organizers.
Vernier, who assumed the role of chief executive last November, spoke in an interview last month in his rarely-used office about managing events that span more than 8,500 square miles. The Italian model could be the future of the Olympics. And what keeps him up at night?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The IOC recently embraced this new kind of sprawling Olympic Games. Turin was big. Vancouver was big. Beijing was big. But is this one bigger?
This one is definitely bigger.
So you’re suggesting a competitive cluster instead of a single site?
There are 4 of them, slashes, and 5. In addition, the closing ceremony will take place at the Roman Amphitheater in Verona. This adds more interesting items, but of course more complexity. However, the idea of the Winter Olympics is that there are currently no mountain cities or mountain villages that can sustain the Olympics, so the Games must be dispersed.
That’s why we need Milan.
I need a city. That’s why I’m always in some city. and the nearby mountains. It’s getting farther and farther. Then Turin. Then Vancouver. And then Beijing. Not here. It’s a completely different concept. The idea here is, first and foremost, go where the infrastructure and experience are. That is why he was chosen that way.
Milan is the country’s most modern city, but it has no special winter sports traditions. But it’s Milan. And, of course, go to Cortina, with its history and alpine skiing experience. They have a very strong tradition in curling. They have a great history in bobsled and sliding sports. Then go to Anterselva. This is his one of the best and most well known. biathlon site in the world. Then there is Val di Fiemme, which has a very long tradition of Nordic sports. Several editions of the World Championship. So the infrastructure is already in place. Yes, it should be modernized. But it’s already there, so there’s no need to build it.
Most of the competition venues already exist, saving you money and time. But how do we connect all this?
It’s important to understand that you have a new system. Because if the concept works, it means other countries have more chances to host the Olympics. For transportation, for example, we will enforce intra-cluster transportation and encourage the use of public transportation between clusters whenever possible.
We are trying to streamline this entire system of the Olympics, and hopefully we can think of the Olympics in order to involve a larger area and a larger population in potential future organizing committees and candidate cities. I would like to leave it as a legacy so that I can. Use your existing infrastructure.
Is it because the IOC cannot ask cities and countries to spend $50 billion, as Russia did at the Sochi Games? Because no one wants to host it?
The risk is that no one will host the Olympics in Europe anymore. Winter Games. The Summer Games are another story. And Europe, after all, is the epicenter of winter sports. So, respect to all of you. Born here, and the Alps are the Alps.
Games need to be held everywhere and in as many countries as possible. But in Europe it will be very difficult unless we find another system. Because this country is still a G7 country and if you can’t afford the Olympics, who can afford the Olympics?
When you think about setting up people’s experiences in different places, it’s like having multiple games running at the same time.
In a way, yes. But the principle we want is, first of all, that it is the same thread that connects everything and the experiences you live. Of course, sports are different, but they are anyway.
What is your relationship with the IOC? After PyeongChang and Beijing, it should be very comfortable to return to a familiar place.
I can’t answer on behalf of the IOC, but I think it’s a big comfort for the Organizing Committee and for the Organizing Committee. They see us as an opportunity to optimize the Winter Olympics, so they are very involved. Because some of the things we start here could become the new standard in the future.
What keeps you up at night?
Oh, so many things. But most of the time that time is short. We have to make up for lost time.
It must be understood that this Organizing Committee was launched in January 2020. Because the Olympic quota was June 2019 and the country was basically completely shut down for three and a half months. And it was very difficult to launch such an organization in such a new way. So the pandemic continued, and when it ended the war started, so it was a tough time. No more excuses.
Another challenge is finding companies that cover the portion of the budget that domestic partners need to cover. Also, you cannot involve a partner for a reasonable cost only in the last 6 months. So this is the most important thing for me.
I tend to sleep, but I worry about time and money.