ROME: The Italian Olympic Committee is suspending Rome’s bid for the 2024 Games for the time being, while leaving open the possibility for a revival of the candidacy if there is a change in city government. CONI president Giovanni Malago said he wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee yesterday to “interrupt the candidacy.” The move comes after Rome’s city council voted last month to withdraw support of the bid on the recommendation of Mayor Virginia Raggi. Rome’s withdrawal would leave only Los Angeles, Paris, and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017. It would also mark the second time in four years that a Rome bid has been withdrawn or interrupted.
In 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns. Raggi, who represents the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said that taking on the costs of an Olympic bid is “irresponsible” for a city struggling to emerge from years of corruption and poor public services. While Raggi wrote a letter to the IOC last month, IOC rules state that only the national Olympic committee can withdraw a candidacy. “Anybody can write to the IOC but the only letter that counts is the one from the president of the Olympic committee,” Malago said at a news conference. Since being elected in June as Rome’s first female mayor, Raggi has had a rough first few months in office. Her administration was thrown into chaos after she dismissed her Cabinet chief and four other officials resigned. Malago compared Rome’s situation to Vancouver’s withdrawal six months before the 1980 Winter Games were awarded to Lake Placid in 1976.
Vancouver had to wait 30 years to host the 2010 Winter Games. “While it’s true that Canada had two games in the intervening years – Montreal (1976) and Calgary (1988) – I think Vancouver paid a big price for that decision,” Malago said. “Rome and Italy find themselves in a similar situation today.” Hoping to regain the trust of the IOC, Malago said that he was offering up Milan as host of the IOC session in 2019.
“This is the first step of Italy’s rehabilitation after this unacceptable interruption,” Malago said. “The other evening I had a chance to discuss this possibility with (IOC President) Thomas Bach and IOC general director Christophe De Kepper and there is ample support for this idea.” “This is a way to turn the page and move on,” Malago added. Still, the “interruption” of the bid is another signal that the IOC still has work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden.
Last month, a city government panel in Tokyo warned that the cost of the 2020 Olympics could exceed $30 billion, more than four times the initial estimates. Voters in Hamburg rejected the German city’s 2024 bid in a referendum, and Boston dropped out last year amid a lack of public and political support and was replaced as the U.S. candidate by Los Angeles. Four cities withdrew during the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only two candidates in the field. Beijing, hardly known as a winter sports destination, defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan. —AP