Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) President Giovanni Malagò has claimed that all three candidates for the country's 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bidding nomination are starting from an equal position.
Malagò was quoted as saying by the Il Gazzettino newspaper as saying that the attempts from Milan, Turin and Cortina d'Ampezzo each have an equal chance, even if they are not starting from the same position.
"Milan has been working for a long time and has already identified virtually all the elements of the route," he said.
"In Veneto [in the Cortina bid] there is now a race against time to recover on the front of the construction of the dossier.
"But it does not mean that the candidacy is not equally credible or strong.
"It's like an exam: some have started studying before.
"Then it may be that the exam is better for those who started studying later, who knows..."
These comments represent a shift from CONI's previous suggestions that they would like a Milan-led effort utilising venues in either Turin or Cortina.
insidethegames understands that they still believe Milan would represent their best chance of success but are keen to keep an open mind and encourage the other bids.
Their final choice still depends on support from the yet-to-be-formed Italian Government.
Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala has warned the City Government does not plan to spend a "euro" on the bid so must receive financial support from the National Government.
"The project must be financed, if we are in these conditions we will consider it," he told Radio Lombardia.
He reportedly added that they must make a decision by the "summer".
"Turin already has a promoter committee but I do not want to do it if I'm not sure," he said.
Support in Turin remains mixed, despite backing from the city's Mayor Chiara Appendino, a member of the Five Star Movement which polled highest at Italian elections this year.
Five Star Municipal Councillor Damiano Caretto still remains staunchly opposed, however, and has fiercely attacked CONI and Malago.
"Malagò and CONI have shown all their inadequacy with the ambiguous communication sent to the IOC for the candidacy of Milan/ Turin for the Winter Olympics of 2026," he wrote on Facebook.
His suggested that something had happened politically to change Malagò's position before claiming that "no candidacy can be considered without an immediate change at the top of CONI".
Sion in Switzerland, Graz in Austria, Calgary in Canada, Sapporo in Japan, Erzurum in Turkey and Stockholm in Sweden are also considering 2026 bids.
The IOC are due decide who to put forward to the candidature stage at its 133rd Session in Buenos Aires in October.
A host should then be chosen next year.