Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

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Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy: On the way to the 2026 Olympics

Interview with Gianpietro Ghedina, Mayor of Cortina d’Ampezzo

Host of the 1956 Olympic Games, Cortina d’Ampezzo is once again preparing to host the Winter Games, 70 years later. And in 2021, Cortina hosted the Alpine Skiing World Championships. Hosting international events is a distinct choice with implications at different levels. How is the organisation of major sporting events a source of immediate attractiveness for the municipality and the region? And what place is given to tourist attraction in this overall strategy?

Cortina, and especially the Public Administration I represent, strongly believes in major events. In particular, major sporting events are opportunities for visibility at an international level, and as a good time for investments in restructuring and modernising the services that we guarantee. Of course, this always omits the centre of the territory, the nature, the beauty of our unspoiled landscape.

Since 1979 Cortina has blocked the land-use plan, and therefore it is not possible to build new buildings except for public and general interest. So major sporting events are a great occasion to attract capital resources and to make a city like Cortina d’Ampezzo more modern and welcoming, giving residents an additional opportunity to continue living in their own city.

In its history, Cortina has had the fortune, and I would say it is unique, to have hosted the Winter Olympics. Seventy years after the Olympics in 1956, we will host the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic Games: a project that looks at sustainability as one of the fundamental themes, focusing on our territory and people. A widespread project, which includes not only Cortina, but also Milan, the territories of the Veneto region, the Lombardy region, and the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano. Of course, these international sporting events are an occasion of great visibility, especially in terms of tourism.

How does the municipality of Cortina brand its image? Does it combine sport and tourism in its communication strategy to attract visitors? If so, how is this win-win combination of “sport” with “tourism” elaborated?

Cortina is lucky to count on two tourist seasons, summer and winter, and sport is definitely the centre of our program, for both winter and summer sports. More and more the summer has an important part in planning and in our proposal. There is great desire and interest in doing physical activities and sports in the mountains. This is not only from the Italian tourists but also and especially from the foreign tourists. Our territory, more than the mountain territory in general, with its large spaces, offers infinite opportunities, given the fact that the so-called healthy activities and sports can find the ideal terrain in Cortina: the unique, wide and sunny Ampezzo Valley.

So, winter sports, as well as summer sports like mountain bike, running, trekking, hiking and climbing, are sports in which Cortina is strongly focused on. Many themed events, starting with the Giro d’Italia on 24 May, are planned for the coming summer, this autumn and beyond.

Hosting major sporting events also creates a legacy beyond the event itself. How does Cortina integrate a long-term vision on tourism development into its event hosting strategy?

Regarding our heritage, we certainly need to make targeted efforts and attract resources in order to provide better services for both tourists and occasional users, and especially for our population. This is in terms of roads, parking, services and hotels, and anything related to hosting and welcoming people to Cortina.

Challenges linked to climate change currently urge mountain resorts to rethink their tourism offer in the long term. What are Cortina’s responses to these challenges to be taken up to preserve this ecosystem and this resource that the mountains represent?

On the challenges related to the environment and climate change: these issues are absolutely taken into account, and that is why Cortina pays great attention to a year-round proposal, in all four seasons. Cortina offers a wide offer for the winter, that is certainly snow and ice, and not only this, but further sport activities for the summer. The well-being of mountain areas such as Cortina is certainly a great potential that we are working on.

International tourism is about 50% those visiting Cortina, tourists that come from all over the world. I think this combination of foreign tourists and local, Italian tourists is the right mix, especially in terms of opportunities for our focus on working 365 days a year.

The Covid pandemic has deeply disrupted the past year and will have an impact on the way we all approach sport, tourism and events. What kind of answers have been developed in Cortina?

The Covid 19 pandemic has been a very difficult and significant variable to manage during this period. As for the 2021 Alpine World Ski Championships, we are proud to be able to complete an event of such prestige and importance, and in a way that is extraordinarily valid. There was great resonance for the event, and despite the lack of an audience, we saw many representatives on television and on social media, the most technological tools. In Cortina we are working hard, planning in detail all tourist activity to be conducted in a safe way for those who come to Cortina.

In general, in this period, which I hope will be only a parenthesis, we are working to attract an audience which is mainly Italian, but also in the near future, to attract and to accommodate tourists from the so-called neighbouring countries. As Europe’s borders are opened to countries like Austria or Germany, we will be ready. The moment they open all borders and there is once again the opportunity to travel, Cortina will be ready to welcome tourists from every country in the world.

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2026 Milan Cortina Winter Olympic Games