Rome’s bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics was dealt a potentially fatal blow Wednesday after the city’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, said she would not give her formal backing.
Giovanni Malago, the president of Italy’s Olympic Committee (CONI), said last week the committee would abandon its bid to host the Games in the event Raggi refused to give her backing.
In an emphatic speech in front of bid supporters, opposition and media in Rome on Wednesday, Raggi was unequivocal.
“This is our position: it is irresponsible to say yes to this candidature,” she told a packed media conference.
“We are effectively asking the people of Rome and of Italy to shoulder the debts (accrued by hosting the Games). We just don’t support it.
“Sport was an integral part of our electoral campaign, but we don’t want it to be used as a pretext to a building spree around the city.”
Raggi managed to enrage Malago and fellow CONI members when the mayor and her entourage appeared 35 minutes later for crunch talks scheduled prior to the announcement.
Malago departed, refusing to talk to waiting television cameras, and the announcement was delayed for over an hour.
But when it came, for many it was no surprise.
Raggi succeeded the controversial Ignazio Marino in October 2015 after promising to “fight corruption and bring back Rome’s splendor”. A year earlier, a wide-reaching scandal exposed the extent of criminal infiltration in a number of city bidding contracts”, and led to Marino’s downfall.
As the first female Mayor of the Eternal City, she is determined to get Rome’s house in order. After years of mismanagement of the city, hosting an Olympics is not top of her list of priorities.
Raggi highlighted the spiralling deficits of former host cities and, in a reference to the building works that would be required, said she opposed another ‘concrete Olympics’.
“We only finished paying off the debts for hosting the 1990 world swimming championships in 2015,” she said.
“The debts related to the Torino winter Games in 2006 are still ongoing. I say no to another concrete Olympics.”
Malago had previously pledged that the estimated 5.3 bn euro budget for the 2024 Games would come exclusively from the Olympic Committee, sponsors and state coffers.
But Raggi added: “Boston, Hamburg and Madrid all had strong reasons to oppose hosting the Games. As Rome mayor I believe this bid is unsustainable.
“We don’t need more white elephants. We need to restore the existing facilities, make the entry prices affordable to our citizens.”
The decision now leaves Paris as the favourites to host the 2024 Games although the French capital, which lost out to London in 2012, will be battling Los Angeles and Budapest.
SOURCE: AFP, Andreas Solaro