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Cortina craves bobsled revival with 2026 Olympics

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Renzo Costantini shows a picture of American bobsledder James Morgan who died in a crash on the track during the 1981 world championships, in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Costantini pines for the good old days when drivers and brakemen would come whizzing down the track on one side of the caf and then hop off their sleds on the other side and come in for a shot of espresso, a vin brul or perhaps even a taste of the local grappa. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO – CORTINA D'When Cortina's century-old bobsled track closed for financial reasons 13 years ago, the adjacent coffee bar kept on serving espressos.

Still, bar owner Renzo Costantini pines for the good old days when drivers and brakemen would come whizzing down the track on one side of the café and then hop off their sleds on the other side and come in for a shot of espresso, a vin brulé or perhaps even a taste of the local grappa.

Or the days when his brother would drive him down the twisty track in a two-man bobsled.

“It was one of the most beautiful tracks in the world — one of the most technical tracks, like St. Moritz,” the 62-year-old Costantini said inside his café, aptly named the Bob Bar — where old photos lining the walls constitute an informal track museum. “We provided a basic service for anyone that came.”

While locals still come to the Bob Bar, hardly anyone comes these days for the track, which was used for the 1956 Olympics and hosted nine world championships — the last in 1999. It was closed in 2008 because of rising maintenance costs.

During a recent walk down the track, which was submerged by waste-deep snow, the only bobsleds visible were collecting dust in a storage area under the start.

While the track was falling apart, sharply banked curves rising out of the snow with a backdrop of jagged mountain peaks still made for a majestic spectacle.

A spectacle that locals hope can be rekindled for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics.