Organizers of the 2026 Winter Games in Milan-Cortina, Italy, are ready to spend more than $100 million on a new bobsled, luge and skeleton track despite the International Olympic Committee’s push to use existing facilities.

But a July 31 deadline for bidding on the fast-tracked construction project for the next Winter Olympics has come and gone without a single company making an offer, according to reports in the European media.

With the demolition earlier this year of the track built for the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo that initially was going to be “renewed” for the upcoming Olympics, organizers could face moving sliding sports to existing facilities in Switzerland or Austria.

Related
Here’s how much money Utah taxpayers are spending on the state’s Olympic venues

That’s what the IOC has long sought, even before giving the 2026 Games to Milan-Cortina. A 2018 IOC report said the other European tracks “should be considered” because the Italian track, closed since 2009, would require “major construction.”

Utah’s bid to host another Olympics, in 2030 or 2034, calls for reusing the venues from the 2002 Winter Games, including the bobsled, luge and skeleton track at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City.

There’s no new construction in the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games’ proposed budget for staging another Olympics, expected to exceed $2.2 billion. The budget, which does not rely on any state or local tax dollars, would allocate $26 million to ready venues.

State taxpayers, however, have put nearly $92 million into the competition sites, which also include ski jumps at the Utah Olympic Park, a speedskating oval at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, and the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center located in Wasatch Mountain State Park.

The state spending on Olympic facilities since 2002 could add up to more than $140 million within the next few years. But Utah bidders are hoping another Olympics will leave behind enough profit to take care of the facilities in the future.

Italian organizers did not go along with the IOC’s efforts to promote its “new norm” for the Olympics that calls for utilizing existing facilities to encourage sustainability and keep costs down.

By the spring of 2021, the IOC reluctantly signed off on Italy’s plans to put $60 million into the aging track, The Associated Press reported, describing it as a regional investment and “part of a wider entertainment park project that is completely unrelated to the Games.”

That’s turned into building a new bobsled track, generating plenty of controversy.

Despite the lack of interest in bidding for the project, Italian organizers aren’t giving up, even though the estimated cost has skyrocketed to as much as $132 million, an increase blamed on inflation driven by the war in Ukraine.

They’re going to try to negotiate directly with the few companies considered capable of building the complex refrigerated track in time for testing at the end of next year, Italy 24 Press News reported.

Related
Why Italian leaders say there’s ‘no money’ for the 2026 Winter Games

The news is once again raising concerns about the financial and environmental impact of hosting a Winter Games, especially as rising temperatures due to climate change are expected to limit the number of future hosts.

“Spiraling costs and melting snow: Do the Winter Olympics have a future?” was the headline on a story about the Italian bobsled track bid, on the Belgium-based Euronews television network’s website.

Walker Ross, a lecturer in sport management and digital marketing at the University of Edinburgh, told Euronews that the world’s warming temperatures may affect the legacy of some Winter Games.

“Whatever we are building right now or have built might not be usable in the future,” Ross said. “If you go out of your way to build a giant winter sports complex, it might not be climatically viable in the future.”

Matthew Burbank, a University of Utah political science professor who has co-authored books about the Olympics, said the situation surrounding Italy’s sliding track isn’t anything new.

“This is a long-standing issue that the IOC is only very recently coming to recognize,” Burbank said, the “serious obstacle” organizers face in having to come up with pricey facilities for specific sports that often “don’t have good uses after” a Games.

Italy’s increasingly expensive struggle to deliver its own track as promised “is a pretty standard pattern,” he said, adding it’s “one of the constant problems we’ve seen over and over again.”

Burbank questioned the IOC’s commitment to sustainability.

“There’s no teeth to that. There’s nothing that says, ‘Here’s what we mean by sustainability. Here’s how we’re going to enforce this. Here’s how we’re going to privilege bids that actually work this in,’” while avoiding those that are “problematic,” he said.

So a bid like Utah’s that showcases sustainability by keeping existing facilities up and running for continued use by elite athletes as well as the community may not be getting the credit it should, the professor said.

Related
Should the IOC ‘grab Salt Lake City while it can’ to host the 2030 Winter Games?

But he said pundits have pointed out that if the IOC is “at all serious about that, Salt Lake is ready to go. They’ve done it before. They’ve got all the facilities” and yet “the IOC is saying, ‘Well, we’re not really ready to make this deal quite yet.”

To Burbank, that’s “an indication that they’re not all that serious about sustainability, even though they’ve been talking about it,” including as a reason to look at rotating future Winter Games among a set group of cities.

Last December, IOC leaders decided to delay choosing between Salt Lake City; Sapporo, Japan; and Vancouver, Canada; as the site of the 2030 Winter Games, citing a need to further study whether climate change means a Winter Games rotation is needed.

The delay opened up bidding to new cities and Sweden, Switzerland and France have all jumped into the race, the first under a new, less formal selection process that puts additional emphasis on sustainability to control costs.

Both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games may be awarded at the same time and Salt Lake City bidders have said they want to wait for the later date to avoid competing for domestic sponsors with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

IOC leaders could name their “preferred hosts” for 2030 and 2034 as soon as October. The cities that are advanced by the IOC Executive Board to contract negotiations are expected to be formally approved by the full membership sometime next year.