Mayor scuppers Rome’s 2024 Olympics bid

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has rejected the Italian city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics, effectively dooming the capital’s candidacy for the second time in four years.

If approved by the city assembly, Raggi’s rejection would leave only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide on the host city in September 2017.

At a news conference in city hall, Raggi said it would be financially “irresponsible” to pursue the bid further given the city is barely able to get its trash picked up. She also noted the debts previous Olympic hosts have incurred.

“In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable. They will bring only debt,” Raggi said.

Raggi drew up a motion to withdraw the bid and put it before the city assembly yesterday. “If it’s accepted by the assembly we’ll deal with the ensuing consequences (to formalise it.)”

Raggi, who was elected in June representing the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, campaigned with the message that an Olympic bid was unsustainable for a city struggling to emerge from years of corruption and poor public services. She said she was merely being consistent with her campaign position.

Her rejection marks Rome’s second withdrawal in four years after then-Premier Mario Monti stopped the city’s plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial problems. The Rome bid was approved by the city assembly last year with 38 votes in favour and only six against — meaning Raggi may have to put the issue up for another vote to officially end the candidacy. The IOC requires bidders to have support from the government and city.

A budget of €24 million has already been allotted — much of it spent — to the bid committee, even though candidacy head Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has no salary.

The bid is slated to be centered around Rome’s historic monuments: a cycling sprint alongside the Roman Forum, beach volleyball at the Circus Maximus and the marathon passing through St Peter’s Square. The budget is projected at €5.3 billion — €2.1bn for construction of permanent venues and the balance for temporary venues.

Rome’s withdrawal would be another clear signal that the IOC still has a lot of work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden. Voters in Hamburg rejected the German city’s 2024 bid in a referendum. Boston also dropped out last year amid a lack of public and political support.

It could also be another stinging blow for the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” programme, which was designed to make bidding for and hosting the games more flexible and more affordable.

The reforms were aimed at avoiding a repeat of bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, which was depleted by the withdrawal of four cities — Stockholm; Oslo; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland — for political or financial reasons. Beijing will host in 2022.

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