Winter Olympics
Placard bearers perform during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at the ...

The Host Of The 2026 Winter Olympics Is Familiar

With one Olympic Games over, time to think of the next one, right?

Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Let’s be real: The 2022 Beijing Olympics were, uh, let’s just say, messy. The games themselves were filled with controversy and scandal, while China, the host country, faced heavy criticism from the get-go for continuing the Olympics amid alleged human rights abuses (which the country denied) and the ongoing pandemic. But even as the games come to a close, plans for the next big competition are already underway. So, which country will host the 2026 Winter Olympics? Sure, hosting the games may be a heavy burden, but this one European country has handled it plenty of times in the past.

For the first time in a long time, the 2026 Olympic Games are scheduled to return to a traditional European site: Italy. However, the competition won’t just be taking place in a single city — it’ll be happening in two. According to NBC Sports, the two host cities will be Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, which beat out a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm through a 47-34 vote in the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Italy may be a relatively small country, but make no mistakes, it’s no rookie when it comes to hosting the huge international event: If all goes as planned, this will be the fourth time the country hosts the Olympic Games.

Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Italy first became the host country for the Olympics during the 1956 Winter Games, which were held in Cortina d'Ampezzo. At the time, only 32 nations participated in the global sporting event. This may seem like a pretty small number of competitors, but it was the largest pool of participating countries the games had ever seen at that point. Now in 2022, the Beijing Winter Olympics included athletes from 84 countries around the world. Since the games have grown so much since 1956, it only makes sense the country would volunteer to host the event in two cities instead of just one.

According to the IOC Evaluation Group Report, per NBC Sports, there are more than a few reasons why Italy is the best bet for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. “Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport,” the committee wrote in an Oct. 2018 recommendation. Plus, there may be some added benefits for the country’s economy. “The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region,” the committee added.

Although the 2026 Winter Olympics are still far out on the horizon, the IOC already has a pretty solid schedule planned out — the opening ceremony will commence on Feb. 6, 2026, while the closing ceremony will end the games on Feb. 22, 2026.