Beppe Grillo was an unlikely backer for a Turin Olympic bid ©Getty Images

Beppe Grillo, founder of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement which polled highest in last week's Italian General Election, has seemingly performed a U-turn and backed a revived Olympic bid from the country.

Grillo, who last year strongly opposed Rome's bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, spoke optimistically about a potential Turin bid which could be "sustainable" and bring about "zero debt".

Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) officials, however, insist that no serious discussions can take place until after a Government is formed in the country, a process not expected to be completed until next month.

They still see Milan as the most likely Italian city to lead a bid for 2026, however, possibly with some events held in Turin.

Interest has also been expressed from the Dolomites region encompassing Veneto and Trentino.

It all comes in a busy week for Italian Olympic bidding as potential candidates begin to jostle for position.

Interested countries most notify the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of their intentions to bid by March 31, although firm plans do not have to be given until later.

Grillo, the comedian and actor who set up the Five-Star Movement in 2009, had repeatedly criticised the Rome bid before its collapse last year following opposition from the city's Mayor Virginia Raggi.

He claimed the bid was "madness" and as likely as an Afghanistan attempt to land the 2030 Games before proposing "hooting rats", "throwing garbage" and "jumping the turnstile metro" as potential new disciplines. 

Milan has never hosted the Summer or Winter Olympic Games ©Wikipedia
Milan has never hosted the Summer or Winter Olympic Games ©Wikipedia

But Grillo has now surprised most observers by switching tack and praising a possible Turin attempt to host a second Winter Olympics this century having previously staged it in 2006.

"It is a great opportunity to be grasped positively, with enthusiasm for Turin and for the Movement," he said at an activists meeting. 

"We will prove to be able to do Olympics at zero debt, in a sustainable manner, different from that of 2006."

Turin's Five Star Mayor Chiara Appendino, who worked at the city's famous football club Juventus from 2007 until 2010, has also spoken in support of a possible bid. 

But there are many other opponents and a planned discussion on the issue at a City Council meeting last night did not go ahead because not enough members attended to fill the quorum necessary for it to be held.

CONI officials including the body's President Giovanni Malagò are thought to favour a bid from Milan because it is seen as more reliable.

They are desperate to avoid a repeat of Rome's withdrawals for both the 2020 and 2024 Summer editions.

It is possible that certain events could be held in Turin, however, 140 kilometres to the west.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala has also suggested support for a potential bid. 

A contact was signed for Milan to host the 2019 IOC Session last year ©IOC
A contact was signed for Milan to host the 2019 IOC Session last year ©IOC

The IOC Session is due to vote to approve bidders into the official candidature stage of the contest in October.

A final decision is currently due to be made at an IOC Session in 2019 in Milan, but any Italian bid would mean a new venue outside the country would have to be found.

Veneto President Luca Zaia has also spoken about a pan-regional bid from Trentino-Aito-Adiege. 

It would include the resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, which is due to host the 2021 Alpine World Championships. 

The Provincial Government of Bolzano have already rejected overtures, however, with Provincial President Arno Kompatscher quoted by the ANSA news agency today as describing zero-imact Games as "impossible" in the present time.

"Suddenly everything is back in fashion, perhaps even for the success of Pyeongchang [2018] not only sport," said Malagò when asked about all the bids. 

"We will see what ideas the Government has for 2026 and at that point it will be decided together if they bring them forward and in what way."

Calgary in Canada, Sion in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden, Sapporo in Japan and Graz and Schladming in Austria are other places to have already expressed interest in a 2026 bid.