LA28 Chairman Casey Wasserman addressed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war in language that pushed the limits of the IOC’s preferred stance of political neutrality during his appearance Monday at the IOC Session in Mumbai.
“There are no words than can fully capture the devastation and shock over the massacre in Israel on Oct. 7,” Wasserman said. “I unequivocally stand in solidarity with Israel, but let me be clear I also stand with the innocent civilians in Gaza who did not choose this war.”
He called on the Olympics to “show what is possible when we understand each other and our differences, and embrace those challenges of the times with respect and dignity. We look forward to welcoming, respecting and celebrating all athletes and people in the world when the games come to Los Angeles in 2028.”
Wasserman was chided by Syed Shahid Ali of Pakistan, who said “the political content tended to overshadow the sports part” of the L.A. presentation. But Wasserman was supported by French IOC member Guy Drut, who competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed after Palestinian gunmen raided the athletes’ village. Drut lamented the “loss of our brothers from Israel.”
The IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee on Thursday for breaching the Olympic Charter by incorporating sports bodies in four regions in eastern Ukraine. IOC Spokesman Mark Adams said the suspension has not yet affected the possibility of neutral Russian athletes competing at next year’s Olympic Summer Games in Paris.
Noting that previous generations of his own family fled to the U.S. from Ukraine “due to the pogroms that eliminated most of the Jewish population,” Wasserman said people there “face an unfathomable path without us” during the war waged by Russia.
On the issue of immigration to the U.S. as the LA28 program was officially confirmed, Los Angeles officials were asked to give assurances that athletes of all passports and nationalities would be allowed in for the Summer Games.
“That is our commitment,” Wasserman said, citing talks with state and federal authorities.
Venue Changes for 2026
USA Luge said in a release it is “disappointed” at the news that bobsled, skeleton and luge events will not be held in Italy during the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan-Cortina, a move that means athletes from those sports will likely be competing in either Austria or Switzerland during the Games.
“USA Luge is disappointed that the location of the sliding sports venue for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has been moved away from Cortina, as we believe it would have been an ideal location given its history,” USA Luge Chief Executive Officer Jim Leahy said. “That said, our athletes will be ready and enthusiastic for the competitions, regardless of where they take place.”
Opened in 1923 and used for the 1956 Olympic Winter Games, the Eugenio Monti Sliding Centre track has been closed since 2008 due to a shortage of funding for the necessary renovation work. The tracks in Igls, Austria, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, are likely to be the only two seriously considered for the 2026 Games.
Moments after the announcement, IOC member Karl Stoss of Austria made clear that his country “would be more than happy” to be the sliding host in 2026. The IOC could decide the sliding venue by the end of this year.
“Thank you, Mr. Stoss, already on the campaign trail,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.
Italian Winter Sports Federation president Flavio Roda said his organization was “shocked” by Monday’s announcement, adding the move is “destined to bury our sliding programs.”
The uncertainty of multiple sports’ location and its financial issues have been a topic for a long time in planning for 2026. Organizers in August said women’s ice hockey would be at the Fiera Milano Rho after renovation costs doubled. The Fiera Milano Rho will need temporary seating to increase the capacity of 6,500 for ice hockey. The venue will also host speed skating venue rather than the 2006 Olympic oval in Turin after plans to renovate that facility were deemed overly expensive.