A preliminary exploration of the sustainable feasibility of Milano Cortina 2026 guided by the IOC’s Sustainability Strategy
In this time of climate emergency, the Olympic Games could become a prominent leader in sustainable event management, becoming an example for other sporting and non-sporting events. As part of their Olympic Agenda 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a Sustainability Strategy to be followed by all Olympic cities. Paris 2024 and Milano Cortina 2026 are the first host cities to benefit from the guidance throughout the whole bidding process. Milano Cortina’s bid was inspired by the Agenda 2020 with sustainability as the focus. This paper explores the feasibility of the sustainability strategy of Milano-Cortina 2026 within the IOC’s Agenda 2020 and Agenda 2030 guidelines. It seeks to achieve three main objectives: 1) compare the five focus areas (infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce, climate) of the IOC sustainability strategy to the stated goals of the 2026 Winter Games; 2) critically analyse the most recent actions undertaken by the Olympic committee in order to achieve sustainable Games; and, 3) critically assess if the 2026 Games can reduce its carbon footprint to a minimum and, subsequently, become a leader in event sustainability. Using content and discourse analysis, we will analyse the specific sustainability requirements from the IOC Sustainability Strategy and compare them to the Milano-Cortina 2026 bidding goals and other related official reports on sustainability. Most research conducted to date by Italian universities analyse the economic impact of the Olympic Winter Games in Italy; however, there is a lack of literature assessing the sustainability strategy and its feasibility. This paper seeks to make an innovative contribution to the emerging literature at the intersection of critical event studies and international sustainable development goals to inform the future of socially, culturally, and environmentally responsible event management practices.