“Italia! Italia!” elated members of the Italian Olympic Committee shouted after the announcement that their nation will host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Minnesotans should take note, considering the strong showing state athletes have historically had in the Winter Games. Members of the U.S. Women’s hockey team and Nordic skier Jessie Diggins were stars from the North Star state who won gold in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
The 2026 Olympics will be split between two northern venues — Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo — which beat out a split bid from Stockholm and Are, Sweden (and even some events in Sigulda, Latvia), which like the Italian proposal was an effort to control costs and convince citizens the international prestige is worth the increased investment.
According to the International Olympic Committee’s own polls, many more Italians than Swedes believed it was indeed worth it, which was no doubt a factor in the IOC awarding Italy its third Winter Games: Cortina hosted in 1956, and Turin had its turn in 2006.
Today’s Italy is politically different from when those two cities hosted. Like much of the West — indeed, the world — it’s turned toward populism. Italy’s most popular politician is Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, whose anti-immigration bent is reflected in an increasing number of nations in Europe. In fact, Salvini has become a leader of continental consequence, as evidenced by the relatively strong showing of several populist parties he championed in May’s European Parliament elections.
Like many of his populist compatriots, Salvini’s support comes in part from his nationalist stance, which was reflected in a post-IOC announcement tweet. “The winners are Italy, the future, and sports,” Salvini wrote, alongside a photo of himself with his fist raised in triumph, unfurling Italy’s flag.
But at least for a February fortnight in 2026, the flag that will matter most is the Olympic one, with its iconic interlaced rings representing “the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world.”
Italy, as it has done so admirably in the past, will warmly welcome this global gathering of world-class athletes.
Let’s hope the spirit spreads to how Italy — and all nations — treat those from around the world who most need a friendly welcome.