IOC President Thomas Bach has talked up Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo's chances ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has claimed the joint Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo bid has an "excellent chance" of securing the hosting rights for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, Bach said the candidacy from the two cities was "a very promising bid" during a visit to Rome this week.

The comments from the IOC President come despite the Italian Government refusing to underwrite the joint bid.

Officials from the Italian National Olympic Committee have claimed, however, that the cities are part of two of the richest provinces in the country and can afford to finance the Games without Government support.

"They will have to work hard, but so far it is a very promising bid," Bach said.

"It is still a good competition: Italy with its passion for sport and its ability to successfully organise major events has excellent chances of victory."

Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo has emerged as the favourite to be awarded the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in recent weeks owing to serious issues with the other two candidates in the race, Calgary in Canada and Stockholm in Sweden.

Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo was one of three candidates approved by the IOC Session last month ©Getty Images
Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo was one of three candidates approved by the IOC Session last month ©Getty Images

Calgary's bid was dramatically saved last week by the City Council, which voted 8-7 in favour of approving a recommendation to terminate it, agreed by the city's Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Assessment Committee.

The number fell short of the 10 votes required for the motion to pass, allowing the Calgary bid to proceed to a key plebiscite next week.

Stockholm's candidacy was also thrown into serious doubt last month after the City Council's two newly-merged parties agreed they will not host the Games.

"An Olympic bid is not a small thing, there will be this (referendum) in Canada and we'll see what happens," Bach added.

"But if I have to give advice to all the candidates it is to only count on your own strengths, without looking at the others."

A host city for the 2026 Games is due to be elected at the IOC Session in Lausanne in June.

The Session was initially scheduled to be held in Milan but the city lost the hosting rights after the approval of the joint Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo bid.