Whether it’s Sweden or Italy, the 2026 Winter Olympic host will be the first of its kind.
The IOC votes Monday between bids from Stockholm-Åre and Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo. The announcement, after a morning of presentations, is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET as part of Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA’s live, commercial-free broadcast and streaming coverage (8-10 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.).
It will be the first Olympics with multiple cities in the official name and the first Winter Games in a traditional European setting since Italy hosted in 2006 with Turin.
The IOC is pleased with these two finalists, four years after Beijing narrowly defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
IOC President Thomas Bach indicated before this bid process began that he wants to see the Winter Games return to a more traditional location. Then-USOC chairman Larry Probst said that was “code for Europe or North America.” The U.S., which has the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games, opted not to bid for 2026 but could go for 2030 with Salt Lake City.
With Sochi in 2014, PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, three straight Winter Games have been awarded to less traditional sites.
Sweden owns the most Winter Olympic gold medals of any nation yet to host a Winter Games. Italy hosted twice, in Cortina in 1956 before Turin in 2006.
But either winner, after five other candidates dropped out, could mark the beginning of an era.
With Bach’s Agenda 2020, passed in 2014, the IOC encouraged multiple cities (even multiple countries) to form single Olympic bids if it meant using more existing venues. That’s what we have for 2026 with two of the most spread-out plans in recent history.
Stockholm-Åre features venues across some 700 miles, from 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Åre to across the Baltic Sea in Sigulda, Latvia. It would be the first Winter Olympics to hold medal events in multiple countries.
That might have been a turn-off in the past, but contesting bobsled, luge and skeleton at an existing sliding track in Latvia is also in line with Agenda 2020. It saves millions of dollars (since Sweden does not have an existing track) and, as an IOC evaluation commission report stated in May, “would give Latvia an Olympic experience the country might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.”
Milan–Cortina, like the Swedish bid, has four venue zones, but within a smaller overall area and all in the same country. It was for a time a three-pronged bid with Turin, which dropped out in September. Thirteen of its 14 competition sites are already existing or will be temporary venues.
The IOC reported 83 percent public support in Italy and 55 percent in favor in Sweden in March. Prime ministers for both nations are part of the delegations in Lausanne for Monday’s vote. Crown Princess Victoria, the heir apparent to Sweden’s head of state, is also expected.
Rob Livingstone, producer of GamesBids.com, which tracks Olympic host races, said each bid has its own set of obstacles and benefits.
“They’ve never been to Sweden before,” he said. “The Italian one is a little bit more challenging, just the way the venues are spread out. There’s no central footprint, even though Milan has taken the lead.
“In Sweden, even though they’re kind of also portraying a regional bid, most of the sports, or a lot of them, are going to be in Stockholm.”
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