The IOC Coordination Commission for Milan Cortina 2026 made its first in-person visit to Italy ©Jule Hering /IOC

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission has identified key priorities including growing the domestic partner programme for the Milan Cortina 2026 Organising Committee on its first in-person visit.

Commission chair Sari Essayah detailed "constructive discussions" and observed "positive progress" following the trip to Milan, where members met recently appointed Milan Cortina 2026 chief executive Andrea Varnier.

"His experience in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, and the vision and energy he expressed during our meetings, were welcomed by the Commission," the Finnish official said.

"Such qualities will provide the necessary boost to the team as they look to advance Games preparation.

"With a highly qualified and enthusiastic team in place, experienced delivery partners, full support across all political levels and strong relationships with Olympic and Paralympic stakeholders, the Organising Committee is making positive progress towards the Games in 2026."

The Coordination Commission pinpointed a growth in the domestic partner programme, optimisation of the Games budget, advancement of venue preparations and enhancement of the Organising Committee team as key priorities for Milan Cortina 2026 in the coming months.

Earlier this year, local politicians requested an urgent meeting with then-Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to discuss major financial concerns over the staging of Milan Cortina 2026.

No sponsors had at that point been signed, sparking concern given corporate partners were projected to account for €550 million (£480 million/$585 million) towards the budget.

Since then, partnerships with Esselunga and Randstad Italia have been announced by the Organising Committee, and 2023 was identified as an important year commercially during the Coordination Commission visit.

The IOC Coordination Commission members visited Milan Cortina 2026 venues including the San Siro ©Getty Images
The IOC Coordination Commission members visited Milan Cortina 2026 venues including the San Siro ©Getty Images

Political changes in Italy which led to far-right Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni becoming Prime Minister in September delayed planned structural reforms at the Organising Committee, with former IOC advisor and Turin 2006 managing director of image and events Varnier replacing Vincenzo Novari as chief executive last month.

Question marks remain over Milan Cortina 2026's plan to redevelop the Eugenio Monti sliding track in Cortina d'Ampezzo, which is in a state of disrepair, and these have also formed part of the concerns surrounding Italy's preparations for the Games.

The Cortina d'Ampezzo Town Council recently approved plans to demolish the sliding track to make way for a new one.

During its three-day visit, the Coordination Commission received updates on the venues, and toured the Olympic Village in Milan, Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony stadium the San Siro, and figure skating and short track speed skating venue the Assago Arena.

Efforts to "optimise" the Games in light of global economic challenges were discussed, as were Milan Cortina 2026's efforts in the realms of sustainability and legacy, and attempts to increase interest and engagement among the general public.

The Organising Committee outlined its plans to enhance its workforce moving into an operational phase next year and commitment to strengthening relationships with International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other bodies.

Andrea Varnier was appointed as Milan Cortina 2026 chief executive last month, and was described by President Giovanni Malagò as
Andrea Varnier was appointed as Milan Cortina 2026 chief executive last month, and was described by President Giovanni Malagò as "the ideal candidate" ©LinkedIn/Andrea Varnier

State, provincial and host city support for Milan Cortina 2026 was also detailed.

Milan Cortina 2026 President Giovanni Malagò, who also leads the Italian National Olympic Committee and is an IOC member, was satisfied at the outcome of the Coordination Commission visit, and underlined his belief that Varnier is "the ideal candidate" to lead the Organising Committee "into its next phase of development".

"During these three days of meetings, the Commission members heard updates on our milestones and visited several venues across the city, including the iconic Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro sport district, where the CoCom Members met with some primary school pupils," Malagò said.

"Our ambition is that all children born after 2010 will play sport regularly and use sport to understand cultural diversity, use sustainable means of transport only and grow up in a more inclusive and integrated society.

"Legacy plans were also detailed, with the collective goal of leaving future generations with arenas and mobility infrastructure that are all financially sustainable.

"Milan Cortina’s project is completely aligned with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and its vision for cost-effective Games that take advantage of existing facilities and expertise.

"Close collaboration between all stakeholders is crucial to developing this unique project."

The Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic Games is scheduled to take place from February 6 to 22, followed by the Paralympics from March 6 to 15.