Italian cities Milan, Cortina d'Ampezzo accept Olympic flag in Beijing

At the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games here on Sunday evening, mayors of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo accepted the Olympic flag, marking the start of the countdown to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

Before being selected to co-host the 2026 Winter Olympics, Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo did not have a lot in common.

Milan is Italy's financial and fashion capital, home to some 1.4 million residents, and set in a valley surrounded on three sides by mountains. Cortina, in contrast, is a ski resort nestled high in the Alps, with fewer than 6,000 full-time residents.

Milan is among Italy's wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities, while Cortina is where many Italian residents take their winter holidays.

But on June 24, 2019, the future of the two cities became intertwined after the International Olympic Committee selected the bid from Milan and Cortina over a rival bid from Stockholm and Are in Sweden.

The opening ceremony will take place on Feb. 6, 2026 at Milan's San Siro Stadium, home to Serie A football teams AC Milan and Inter Milan. The closing ceremony on Feb. 22, 2026 will be held at the Verona Arena, a 1,992-year-old amphitheater built at the height of the Roman Empire.

Broadly speaking, Milan will host indoor competitions such as ice hockey, figure skating, and short track speed skating, while Cortina d'Ampezzo will be the site of Alpine skiing, bobsled, and curling races.

A few other spots around northern Italy, such as Valtellina, will host events without being official host cities.

Organizers say the planning of the Games will focus on low environmental impacts and cost savings based on reusing or repurposing facilities and infrastructure.

It is also notable that much of the image for the 2026 Games have been or will be decided by the public, including the 2026 emblem, mascot, and song.

Most of the details about the 25th edition of the Winter Olympics will be worked out over the coming months. Diana Bianchedi, a project manager for the 2026 Games, told Xinhua that officials would meet this summer to start finalizing plans leading up to 2026.

This is the third time for Italy to host the Winter Olympics, after Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956 and Torino 2006.