Cortina residents express alarm at 2026 Winter Olympics construction plans

 CORTINA D’AMPEZZO – As many as 400 members of the mountain community Cortina d’Ampezzo turned out on Monday to demonstrate in a local square against the construction projects for the 2026 Winter Olympics, as well as against the potential environment impact on the town, according to local officials.

 The community is protesting three years before the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympics are due to begin, and the construction work itself has not yet begun. “Let's make ourselves heard. Let's take Cortina back,” was the slogan that gathered at least 400 people in Piazza Dibona to debate the problems which may afflict the “pearl of the Dolomites” when the works begin, as reported by Il Fatto Quotidiano.

 The demonstration was organised by the Cortina Civic Committee which did not hold back with its criticism of both the local mayor Gianluca Lorenzi and organisers of the Games, who, according to them, are “guilty of not taking into account the needs of those who live in such a fragile environment.”

 "We are citizens who want to defend what remains of our social life, our territory, our local culture,” said the president of the Cortina Civic Committee, Marina Menardi. Responding to those who claim that the Olympics are a unique opportunity for the mountain's rebirth, she added: "Cortina is now really at stake, socially, scenically and environmentally. We are living through a critical historical moment: the Olympics are proving to be a boomerang, because they are not managed locally, but by a group of people from outside …, who have nothing to do with us.”

 From the Olympic Village to the bobsleigh run, the inhabitants are upset because the projects are passing over their heads: “There is no involvement, there is no transparency. This is alarming,” said locals. No one informs them of the construction plans -  a few rare meetings have become a catwalk to plead the merits of the Olympic works. "Decisions are taken elsewhere, with the approval of the municipal administration, which is supposed to defend and protect us.”

 The Olympic village at Campo is the straw that is breaking the camel's back. The Village, designed to house 1,200 people, is to be built in Campo with prefabricated buildings and infrastructure for an occupation period of a few weeks, but will irreparably damage a large meadow of some 40 hectares, claims the Cortina Civic Committee.

 The bobsleigh track, on the slopes of the Tofane, has been reconfirmed as an essential project, even though it will cost a disproportionate amount of money (at least a hundred million euro) for a discipline that does not even involve more than 20 athletes in the whole of Italy. In addition, a bitter blow arrived a few days ago: the facility will not be used for the parabobsleigh event, which will not be included in the Milan-Cortina 2026 Paralympic programme, despite the Lega Nord governor Luca Zaia’s announcement a year ago. The confirmation came from Luca Pancalli, president of the National Paralympic Committee.

 The list of unfinished works and missing facilities in Cortina is very long. With the 2021 Alpine Ski World Cup, a new road access should have been built. Nothing has been done. 300 million euro has been allocated for the Cortina tunnel, but it is practically impossible for it to be realised in three years, given the unsuccessful outcome of the World Cup projects. Restoration work on the hospital in Codivilla (privatised) has been at a standstill for a year. The swimming pool has been closed for 11 years, the Eden cinema for three years.  

 Two days before the assembly in the piazza, the mayor sent a press note, anticipating criticism and lamenting the critical issues inherited from previous administrations: “Our goal is to improve Cortina, taking care of those works that have been neglected or abandoned for decades. We need everyone's constructive work and not polemics,” he wrote. His letter, however, only confirmed the existence of a dozen major unresolved problems.