$50 million US roof approved for 2026 Winter Olympics to cover speedskating venue

Another expensive venue for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics has been approved, with $50-million US project slated to place a roof over the outdoor speedkating oval in Baselga di Pine.

City of Baselga di Pine gives go-ahead to appease International Skating Union

Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) President Giovanni Malago, Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Cortina Gianpietro Ghedina and IOC President Thomas Bach pose after Milano and Cortina won the bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games during the 134th Session of the International Olympic Committee. ( Philippe Lopez/Reuters)

Another expensive venue for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics has been approved, with $50 million US project slated to place a roof over the outdoor speedkating oval in Baselga di Pine.

Officials in the Trentino region gave the go-ahead at a city council meeting.

The Milan-Cortina organizing committee said Tuesday that it couldn't comment on "a choice made by Baselga," but noted that speedskating was slated for Baselga in the bid dossier and that the International Skating Union prefers an indoor oval.

The move comes after local authorities in the Veneto region set aside more than $80 million to renovate the historic sliding track in Cortina for bobsled, luge and skeleton races.

Neither the oval nor the sliding centre will be included in official Milan-Cortina budgets in an era of increasing sensitivity about the cost of staging the Olympics — and the typical overspending funded by taxpayers.

There had been calls to move speedskating to an existing indoor oval built for the 2006 Turin Games.

The move comes amid reports that the new Italian government is set to appoint Andrea Varnier, who helped organize the 2006 Turin Games, as the chief executive for the 2026 organizing committee.

Alessandro Zoppini, the architect for the approved oval, also designed the speedskating venues for the 2006, 2014 and 2018 Games in Turin, Sochi and Pyeongchang, respectively.

Zoppini noted that covering the oval will reduce energy costs since the track will no longer be subjected to direct sunshine.

Francesca Lollobrigida of Italy competes in the women's speedskating 1,500-meter race at the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

The Baselga oval hosted the 1995 world championships and various other elite events but the last time speedskating was held outdoors at the Olympics was for the 1992 Albertville Games, with the IOC having since preferred the controlled environment of indoor venues.

Outdoor ice is notoriously tough to keep in shape for all competitors to have a fair chance at a medal.

High temperatures made matters challenging in Albertville, where one recurring term was "slush," with skaters ploughing through soft ice that sometimes had a thin sheet of water on top.

Over longer distances, when a competition session can take two hours, conditions at outdoor tracks can change to the extent that gold can depend as much on the starting time as on four years of preparation.

With Baselga now slated to get a roof, though, those worries can be set aside.

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