Study Focusing on Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics Reveals Lessons Learned for Hosting Mega-Events in Sustainable and Economical Ways.
The Long-Standing Issue of Mobility at the Olympics: From Host Cities to Host Regions in the Ongoing Case Study of Milan–Cortina 2026
The International Olympic Committee adopted Olympic Agenda 2020 to adjust the event requirements to address modern society’s sustainability concerns related to the high number of public investments purely made to make a candidate city more attractive as a potential host. The Agenda aimed at increasing the sustainability of the Olympic events and changed the definition of the ‘host’, which is no longer required to be a single city. The goal of this study was to explore and discuss how mobility planning paradigms in the context of the Olympic Games were expected to change for cases of regional hosts, using the case study of the Milan–Cortina 2026 Winter Games. A conceptual and comprehensive framework based on a semi systematic literature review of mega-event mobility studies was developed to systematize the mobility problem at the Olympic Games. The edition of Milan–Cortina 2026 will be the first to be hosted at a macroregional scale, being the only case of an Olympic region. The findings from this case study were then extrapolated for cases of other Olympic regions encompassing multiple cities to identify any necessary modifications of mobility planning that would stem from a larger geographic scale of Olympic host cities.
- Pay close attention to the performance of interurban transport, especially when hosting a mega event in a region, rather than a single city. This should be done with planned interventions aimed at strengthening territorial interconnectivity and cohesion, increasing intermodal efficiency, and improving public transport services for medium and long distances, thus aiming at fostering modal shift.
- Frame all decisions within the host’s long-term strategic planning to guarantee an appropriate public investment that fits the needs of the population. This is important to stay within economic, environmental, and social sustainability boundaries while successfully hosting a mega event. Especially the permanent actions should be ideally targeted at the host population’s needs, with visions and objectives defined according to the host’s long-term planning.
- Prepare for all weather conditions when planning mega event mobility options. Weather is a very relevant factor influencing mega-event mobility planning, especially in the context of the Winter Olympics, as measures must be taken to make sure that the transport operations are not affected by adverse weather conditions.
- Take advantage of technological innovation to explore alternative modes, such as flying taxis or fully automated vehicles. This could be considered to alleviate pressure on dependency on limited types of transportation modes.
- Implement information systems in real-time to promote well-informed and efficient traveling. For the case of Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games, motorways are already equipped with variable message signs. In Milan, to inform users of modal choice, travel time and cost, a service platform for integrated mobility is underway, encompassing the local public transport network, rail transport, and car/bike-sharing services.
- Ensure coordination between all modes of transportation. This is essential for the smooth running of operations through the mega event, encouraging a modal shift from private to public transport, or non-motorized options such as biking or walking whenever viable.
- Recognize and address the highly time- and place-specific nature of event traffic demand. If unaddressed, this greatly fluctuating demand would undoubtedly generate congestion, adverse environmental impact, and opposition from citizens.
- Prioritize each of the involved stakeholders’ transportation needs appropriately. Simply put, there are five different transport systems: the Games stakeholder transport system; the athlete transport system; the technical official transport system; the media transport system; and the public transport system. In order to ensure the required priority amongst these stakeholders, special routes could be designated for certain stakeholder groups.
- Consider introducing congestion charging to reduce road traffic in the city center. This kind of investment has already been made for the case of Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games.