2026 Olympics in Italy could slide over border to St Moritz

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              FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 file photo, Thomas Florschuetz, Joshua Bluhm, Kevin Kuske and Christian Poser compete in the four-man bobsled World Cup competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. St. Moritz will host sliding sports events at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics, the high-end resort’s Olympia track will stage bobsled, luge and skeleton races in January 2020. (Arno Balzarini/Keystone via AP, File)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — When St. Moritz hosts the sliding events at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics, it could be an audition for a bigger event.

The high-end resort’s Olympia track will stage bobsled, luge and skeleton races in January for the youth games centered in Lausanne, a 425-kilometer (265-mile) trip across to western Switzerland.

Closer to St. Moritz, a 300-kilometer (185-mile) drive across the Italian border, is Cortina d’Ampezzo, the co-host with Milan for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Organizers have yet to finalize their sliding sports venue and will be observing the Jan. 9-22 youth games.

The successful 2026 bid picked by International Olympic Committee in June proposes spending 50 million euros ($55 million) to revive a bobsled track in Cortina. Although the track was a 1956 Winter Olympic venue, it was shuttered in 2008.

“There is a lot of expectation to have a fresh look at this venue,” IOC sports director Christophe Dubi told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

After runaway spending on the 2014 Sochi Games and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, an Olympic mantra is avoid construction costs and white elephant venues.

So, Italian officials must question spending on a venue that already closed once, while neighboring Switzerland and Austria are alternatives.

“You have many options and that is the message,” said Dubi, referring to St. Moritz, the Austrian track in Igls, and even Lillehammer in Norway.

All three are previous Olympic host venues, though not since 1948 in St. Moritz.

The Italian Olympic body, known as CONI, said this week it has no plans yet to switch from a Cortina track renovation project.

“It is not the time for this discussion,” said Ivo Ferriani, the Italian president of the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “In one year we can be more specific.”

Ferriani, who also represents all winter sports as a member of the IOC’s executive board, spoke to the AP on the sidelines of a two-day meeting, which ends Thursday.

The Italian acknowledged the IOC “is now leading the process” of shaping the Milan-Cortina Winter Games, and “we have to be focused on the legacy and sustainability.”

The legacy of sliding sports was lost shortly after Italy hosted the 2006 Turin Olympics. At the games, Ferriani worked as competition manager for bobsled, luge and skeleton at Cesana Pariol, which was built for about $100 million.

The future of that venue was already unsure during the games. It was dismantled in 2012.

Taking sports outside of an Olympic host country now fits with IOC thinking. So does housing more athletes nearer their event venue.

The Lausanne Youth Winter Olympics will cross the nearby border to France to stage Nordic events. St. Moritz will have its own athlete’s village.

“We made sure from Day 1 we want a very similar experience for the athletes staying in St. Moritz,” Danka Bartekova, the IOC member overseeing the Lausanne youth games, told the AP. “It is going to be the Olympic standard.”

For the 2026 project, previous Olympic bobsled tracks in North America _ Salt Lake City, Utah, and Whistler, British Columbia _ have not been ruled out by Dubi.

“Once you decide to go outside of the perimeter of your games,” he said, “then the world is a big place.”