Milan Cortina 2026 presented its updates to the IOC Executive Board ©IOC/Greg Martin

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board has observed a "productive start to 2023" for the Organising Committee of the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Preparations last year were marred by disruption, including a protracted appointment of Andrea Varnier to succeed Vincenzo Novari as chief executive and political instability following the collapse of Mario Draghi's coalition Government, which led to the election of right-wing populist Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister.

On its first in-person visit in December 2022, the IOC Coordination Commission observed "positive progress" but identified growing the domestic partner programme as a key priority.

In a Milan Cortina 2026 report to the IOC Executive Board, it explained that three new domestic partners have been confirmed in the first three months of this year, and there is a "concerted focus on securing more" in the coming months.

Finalising the venue masterplan has been identified as the "key focus" for Milan Cortina 2026 in the coming months, particularly for long-track speed skating.

Milan Cortina 2026 President Giovanni Malagò, an IOC member and President of the Italian National Olympic Committee, has himself acknowledged "sports facilities represent the priority".

An agreement is thought to be close on staging speed skating events at the Fiera Milano Exhibition Centre in Milan after plans to build an expensive roof over the Baselga di Pinè outdoor rink were rejected.

However, Italy's Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Matteo Salvini has made a late plea for Turin 2006 Winter Olympics venue Oval Lingotto to be selected instead.

Finalising a venue masterplan and a choice of host for speed skating has been identified as a
Finalising a venue masterplan and a choice of host for speed skating has been identified as a "key focus" for Milan Cortina 2026 ©Getty Images

Construction of a new sliding centre to replace the Eugenio Monti track used at Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956 has begun, although this has been the subject of protests from demonstrators opposed to the project, which is expected to cost nearly double initial estimates at €80 million (£70.3 million/$87.1 million).

Milan Cortina 2026 last week approved a lifetime budget of around €1.5 billion (£1.3 billion/$1.6 billion), the same as when it was awarded hosting rights in 2019 despite economic difficulties and inflation.

Other updates provided to the Executive Board included the first world broadcaster briefing in Milan organised by Milan Cortina 2026, Olympic Broadcasting Services and media rights-holders, three-years-to-go celebrations and a public vote on a pair of stoats as their preferred mascot.

The IOC Executive Board also approved the first qualification pathway for Milan Cortina 2026 in ice hockey.

Milan Cortina 2026 has been branded as the most widespread Winter Olympics and Paralympics of all time, covering an area of 22,000 square kilometres across the north of Italy.

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