The Latest: Italy: Our economic problems won't be hindrance
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Latest on the 2026 Olympics vote (all times local):
Italy's bid team is confident the nation's economic problems will not prevent it from staging a successful 2026 Winter Olympics.
Italy has endured years of austerity and its debt load is the second highest in Europe, after Greece. However, the Milan-Cortina bid is based in the two richest regions of the peninsula.
Italy Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti says: "They are two of the richest provinces in Europe. They certainly have the capacity, they have the readiness, they have the finances in order to be able to support the event."
In 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped Rome's candidacy for the 2020 Summer Olympics because of financial concerns. A second bid, for the 2024 Olympics, was scrapped three years ago because of staunch opposition from the city mayor.
But Giorgetti believes that hosting the games would only benefit Italy's economy.
He says: "It will be very good for the economy of our region but also for Italy and for tourism in the Alp region. The Italian government believes that this sporting event will be a driving force for the economy as well."
World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi believes the unity behind Italy's bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics will give it the edge.
Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, spoke to reporters after a closed-doors session where IOC members quizzed the Milan-Cortina bid team about the 2026 Olympics project.
Lippi says: "What I can say is that never before has Italy given such a clear sense of solidity, of cohesion and of cooperation. It was something very beautiful."
Italy has had to scrap two recent bids for the Summer Olympics.
Three years ago it was forced to end Rome's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics because of staunch opposition from the city mayor. And in 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city's candidacy for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.
Lippi is currently coach of China. Earlier in the day, it was announced the IOC has extended its sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola from 2021 through 2032 in a first-ever joint commercial deal with Chinese dairy company Mengniu.
Beijing is the 2022 Winter Games host, and China internet giant Alibaba is already one of the 13 top-tier Olympic sponsors.
The IOC says 83 members are eligible to vote for the 2026 Winter Games host, though President Thomas Bach will abstain.
That leaves 82 voters, including the Emir of Qatar and the Princess Royal of Britain. Bach can make the casting vote if there is a tie between Milan-Cortina and Stockholm-Are.
Of the 95 members, the IOC says, four gave reasons for their absence including the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Three members are self-suspended or suspended while implicated in wrongdoing, including Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. The Kuwaiti sheikh is often called the kingmaker of Olympic elections. The others are Patrick Hickey of Ireland and four-time Olympic medalist sprinter Frank Fredericks.
The two IOC members from Sweden and three from Italy are not eligible to vote.
Voting is scheduled at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) and the result is expected at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT).
Sweden's prime minister says he told International Olympic Committee voters his country can overcome doubts and deliver a successful 2026 Winter Games.
Stefan Lofven says, "It's in the Swedish model, it's in our DNA," at a news conference after a 75-minute closed-door meeting with IOC members. Up to 82 are expected to vote this afternoon.
In a campaign noted for political uncertainty in Sweden and Italy, the IOC relaxed its old rules and gave Stockholm-Are and Milan-Cortina more time to secure key guarantees of finance and security.
Stockholm's city government coalition formed in October, and has not signed the IOC hosting contract, leaving Alpine resort Are to step up.
The center-left national coalition led by Lofven formed in January.
Asked if winning Monday's vote would be his greatest test, Lofven said: "I spent four months last winter forming a government — that was a huge challenge.
"Seriously, I am very proud to be part of this. It's important to Sweden, we're a big winter sports nation. We love this, we know how to do this."
IOC members quizzed the Stockholm-Are bid team about key financial guarantees for the 2026 Olympics project, and travel times.
The mayor of Stockholm, Anna Konig Jerlmyr, tells reporters after a closed-doors session with IOC members: "It is totally clear that the guarantees are in place."
Touting a new, flexible approach to help Olympic bidders, the IOC has allowed Stockholm-Are and Milan-Cortina extra time to secure backing from lawmakers and investors.
Still, the IOC wrote to Swedish bid officials last week suggesting the Stockholm athlete village project was a risk.
The mayor says: "It's good to have this discussed."
She says members also were curious about travel times. The Alpine ski venues at Are and ice sliding track at Sigulda, Latvia, are both a one-hour flight and up to one hour by road from Stockholm.
Italian bid officials are due in next for a 75-minute closed-door session. Both will make further presentations for broadcast after lunch.
Around 85 IOC members are due to vote at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) and the result is scheduled at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT).
The IOC has begun a day-long conference to decide the host of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The contest is a choice between Milan-Cortina and Stockholm-Are.
The day begins with behind-closed-doors presentations and Q&A sessions with each of the candidates and ends with a vote, with the announcement scheduled for 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).
The IOC has 95 members but not all will attend or can vote. The winner will have a simple majority of valid votes cast.
The vote is at the same SwissTech conference center in Lausanne where two years earlier IOC members agreed to combine the 2024 and 2028 Olympic votes — making winners of both Paris and Los Angeles.