MILAN — “The winner takes it all,” cites an Abba song.
The popular Eighties track was dusted off in Italy in the last 24 hours, after the International Olympic Committee revealed Monday that the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina beat the competition of the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Åre to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
As IOC’s president Thomas Bach made the announcement in front of the Italian and Swedish delegations at the SwissTech Convention Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, people gathered in the squares of Milan and Cortina burst into cheers over the outcome. In the following hours they were joined in celebrating by fellow Italian citizens, who shared their satisfaction about the choice on social media.
This marks the third time Italy will host the Winter Games after the 2006 edition in Turin and the 1956 edition in the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort. The 2026 Winter Olympics will run Feb. 6 to 22, while the Paralympics will run March 6 to 15.
The selection of Milan and Cortina also will mark a duopoly of Olympic Games in Europe, with the Summer Olympic Games set to be held in Paris in 2024. This follows a string of Olympics set for the Far East, beginning with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, to be followed by the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
The victory came as an injection of confidence and hope for a country that’s facing political and economic uncertainties. It is set to act as a springboard for the relaunch of the national image worldwide of its industry and especially of its economy. In particular, according to a study released by Rome’s Università La Sapienza, the Games are expected to boost national gross domestic product by 81 million euros to 93 million euros from 2020 to 2028, generating an aggregate wealth of 2.3 billion euros in that period. The estimated total economic return in the areas that will be hosting the Games, which include the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano in addition to Milan and Cortina, is expected to be around 4.5 billion euros.
As Italians rediscovered unity in the aftermath of the announcement, the victory added to the controversies surrounding the Five-Star Movement political party. The selection for the Games of Milan and Cortina, which are led by Northern mayors, contrasts with the failed bids of Rome and Turin, both cities governed by Five-Star mayors who were very vocal in the past about considering the Games not being a priority of their political programs.
As many citizens of Rome and Turin criticized the move as a missed opportunity, both mayors eventually took to Twitter to congratulate their colleagues in Milan and Cortina for the win.
Reactions from the fashion industry didn’t take long to appear on social media, either. Moncler chairman and chief executive officer Remo Ruffini was among the first to take to Instagram, posting the Italian logo for the Games. The stylized image, which combines Milan’s iconic Duomo cathedral with a ski run, was flanked by a caption reading: “Olympics winter games 2026 The Winner Milano Cortina #olimpiadi #cortina #milano #coni”
Reached for comment Tuesday, Ruffini said “when Italian know-how and culture are sprinkled with energy and determination, magic happens!”
In particular, Ruffini thanked Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala, the Italian Olympic committee’s president Giovanni Malagò “and all those who made it possible. I see the future of Italy in this victory, symbol of a big team effort toward a common goal. Let’s get ready for a great execution with this winning team.”
“I can’t deny that I followed the announcement with excitement and I’m very happy that Milan has been chosen for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games,” said Giorgio Armani. “With the pragmatism that distinguishes this city, I truly believe it will be able to host and manage such an important event in the best possible way. It will seize the development opportunity as it did for Expo 2015. Together with Cortina and its majestic mountains, I’m sure that it will succeed in demonstrating what we Italians can do when we step up and all work together, just like a great sports team does,” he added.
The designer was also the only fashion designer to make an appearance in the three-minute video the Italian delegation presented to the Olympic committee to support its candidacy. The clip, an emotional footage with evocative images and a voice-over narrating in rhymes Milan and Cortina’s treasures – including architecture, design, natural landscapes, food, fashion, people’s passion and hospitality as well as its longtime history in sports – was a key asset in convincing the committee on the opportunities offered by the two destinations.
“A moment to feel proud to be Italian and proud to live in this great city: the Olympic Winter Games are coming to Milan and Cortina in 2026!” wrote Marchetti. “I remember when I was just 19 and I moved from the little province town of Ravenna to the ‘gran Milan’ for university. I moved away afterward for business school, traveled a lot for work and now spend lots of time in London, too, but I spend most of my time in our Milanese headquarters that are expanding more and more with many new jobs. And each year the city just gets better — often with many thanks to our mayor @beppesala. Congratulations Beppe for another win for both city and country!”
Sala is indeed the man of the moment. After bringing the Expo to the city in 2015, his popularity has increased and hit a new high Monday, when he appeared alongside Veneto region’s president Luca Zaia in front of the Olympic committee to give a passionate speech prior the announcement.
On Instagram, his latest post shared after the victory was among the most popular ones in his feed, getting positive comments and support from fashion designers including Massimo Giorgetti of MSGM and Andrea Incontri, as well as from Sergio Rossi’s ceo Riccardo Sciutto.
If the return in terms of image created by the Games is considerable and obvious, with Milan enhancing its international appeal and Cortina increasing its luxury ski resort status, what else is in store for these destinations?
Research released by Milan’s SDA Bocconi University offered estimates on the impact of the Olympics, stating that the economic returns for the Milan and Lombardy region alone will be around 3 billion euros.
The estimated return for the Veneto region and the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano will be 1.5 billion euros, according to another study conducted by the Università Ca’ Foscari of Venice.
These figures don’t include 415 million euros expected to come from sponsorships and an additional 234 million euros that will come from the sale of 2.5 million tickets to the Games.
“The economic return of over 3 billion euros just for the Lombardy region could increase on a national scale thanks to the strengthening of Italy as a brand in the world,” said Carlo Sangalli, president of Confcommercio, the country’s leading confederation of companies, which has 650,000 members. Sangalli believes the Games will “help firms to regain confidence and bring back our country at the center of the international scene.”
In terms of cost, the total estimate is around 1.3 billion euros, part of which will be covered by the IOC. The study released by Rome’s Università La Sapienza states that the operative costs will be 1.1 billion euros.
The Italian government will contribute with a 415 million euro injection, mainly to cover the cost of security, with over 15,000 policemen expected to be on hand for the event. In return, the state is expected to receive 601.9 million euros in taxes from sales at the Games.
According to the study, investments to realize accommodations for athletes, media centers and infrastructures will amount to around 346 million euros, which will be mainly covered by private firms.
A core value and winning asset promoted by the Italian project was sustainability. To this end, 92 percent of the 14 stadiums and tracks offered to host the disciplines already exist and need just minor renovation. The only new structure that will be built is the PalaItalia arena, which will have a capacity of 15,000 people. Set to be unveiled in 2024 after a 70 million euro investment by private industry, the structure will be located in Milan’s southeast suburban district of Rogoredo, and will mark an urban revitalization project for the area.
The same approach will be applied to establish one of the Olympic villages in the city’s former Scalo Porta Romana area, which has already gained popularity since Fondazione Prada opened there in 2015. After the Games, the village will be reconverted into accommodations for university students.
Other sustainable initiatives will include the recycling of 80 percent of packaging materials and the implementation of solar panels to power snowmaking machines.
Job opportunities represent additional fruits. Beginning in 2020, there will be an average of 5,500 additional jobs a year, and 8,500 job opportunities in 2026. In particular, employment in Milan and Lombardy will count 22,170 new jobs while the employment generated by the Games in the Veneto region, Trento and Bolzano is estimated to be around 13,800 jobs.
Therefore, the victory was also warmly welcomed by Italian labor unions. “It’s such beautiful news,” commented Carlo Gerla, general secretary of the Milanese Cisl trade union. “The Olympics can become another opportunity of development for all the area,” he said, adding that he hopes the relationship between labor unions, companies and the municipality will mirror the one already “successfully tested for the Expo in 2015.”
The Cgil trade union for the Lombardy and Veneto regions released a statement defining the event as “a big opportunity to make quality, safe jobs prevail and to leave infrastructures and growth as a legacy for the future of the country.”
In 2026, at least 800 million viewers are expected to watch the Games on TV while 1.7 million people will be visiting Italy during the event. Such an influx of visitors opens a wide door for companies and entrepreneurs operating in the accommodation and food categories, among others. Between Lombardy and Veneto, there are 87,000 hotel rooms already available, but many others will be added during these years.
“We welcome this appointment with a great sense of responsibility and are sure that tourism — a leading industry in this country — but also the whole national economy will widely benefit from it,” said Luca Patané, president of Confturismo, which represents the Confcommercio companies operating in the tourist industry.
Even if the Olympics are seven years from now, they feel like they are already happening. According to media reports, over 75,000 related events will be hosted from now until 2026. As a local actress commented under mayor Sala’s post on Instagram: “Let’s get to work. For Milan, 2026 is already yesterday.”