by Tom Kelly

Amidst all the talk of political stability, financial guarantees, public support ratings and Agenda 2020, let’s remember what the Olympics and Paralympics are all about. The athletes.

Our winter sports world was blessed with two well-qualified candidates for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: Milano Cortina and Stockholm Åre. Each presented strong plans with remarkable venues – most of which already exist. Sweden’s Åre and Falun sports centers are steeped in heritage, just as are Italy’s Cortina, Bormio, Livigno, Val di Fiemme, and Antholz. Milano and Stockholm are among the world’s greatest cities, rich in culture.

Athletes are the deciding factor

The deciding factor came late in the presentation of Milano Cortina when Sofia Goggia and Michela Moioli came to the podium. The two of them stepped to the microphone scared to death. Goggia joked that she was less nervous standing in the starting gate at PyeongChang before her gold medal run. 

The deciding factor came late in the presentation of Milano Cortina when Sofia Goggia and Michela Moioli came to the podium. The two of them stepped to the microphone scared to death. Goggia joked that she was less nervous standing in the starting gate at PyeongChang before her gold medal run. 

They stood at microphone not as skilled spokespersons, but as athletes. They exuded youth and they had fun amidst their fear. They were genuine.

“Athletes take a lifetime of passion and commitment and show us who they are at the Olympics,”

As athletes, the two are quite different. Goggia is a downhill ski racer, Moioli a snowboardcross rider. But they share a lot in common. Both of them have persevered through painful injuries. Each had to wage brutal battles on their race courses to achieve success. Together, they found their personal gold in PyeongChang.

Nonetheless, they are friends from the same region of Italy and occasional training partners, despite the fact that they attach different tools to their feet.

Goggia smiled at IOC President Thomas Bach in the audience to recount how she still held in her heart the words he spoke to her when he presented her with the gold medal in PyeongChang. Moioli spoke about the vision she’s kept in her mind, coming off the final jump and seeing the finish line in sight.

While Goggia and Moioli showcased the whimsical hearts of dreamers, eight-time Olympic medalist Arianna Fontana carved a path with the precision of a short track speed skater. Showing the confidence of an Olympic champion and the poise of a statesman, she detailed out the differences for Milano Cortina.

“Athletes take a lifetime of passion and commitment and show us who they are at the Olympics,” she said. “Host cities need energy to match all the energy the athletes put out.” 

The flagbearer for Italy in PyeongChang equated the power of emotion as a means of creating energy for sport. She explored the hidden jewels of the Dolomites and the innovation of Milano. 

“Going to the Olympics is the dream of even the most humble athlete.”

Teenager talks of dreams

But it was a 17 year old speed skater, Elisa Confortola, who put it all into perspective.

“Being here today is a dream come true,” she said. “Going to the Olympics is the dream of even the most humble athlete. Even though it might seem out of reach, it gives you an incredible boost of energy in every training session. It encourages you to try to exceed your limits. It gives you the strength to persevere when you can’t go on and your legs are aching. It’s that fire that burns within you

“That’s why I’m here today – in the hope this dream comes true. Milano Cortina 2026 is my dream – our dream. And we’re here today to ask you to make it come true.”

Olympic athletes are amazing individuals. It’s their story. And they tell it best.