Rome mayor re­jects 2024 Olympic bid: ‘This city is un­liv­able’

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Ir­re­spon­si­ble, and un­af­ford­able.

Re­fus­ing to put up with more debt in a city be­sieged by cor­rup­tion and poor pub­lic ser­vices, Mayor Vir­ginia Raggi re­jected Rome's bid for the 2024 Olympics yes­ter­day, ef­fec­tively doom­ing the cap­i­tal's can­di­dacy for the sec­ond time in four years.

"This city is un­liv­able," Raggi said in a news con­fer­ence at city hall atop an­cient Capi­to­line Hill. "We need to fo­cus on that.

"We have a much more am­bi­tious project for Rome than the one for the 2024 Games," Raggi added. "We want to up­grade the ser­vices, give back to cit­i­zens a city that is as wor­thy as any other Euro­pean cap­i­tal."

If ap­proved by Rome's city assem­bly, Raggi's mo­tion to with­draw the bid 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.

Raggi's re­jec­tion comes af­ter then-Pre­mier Mario Monti stopped Rome's plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­cerns.

"We've lost all cred­i­bil­ity, if we pull out," Ital­ian Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Gio­vanni Malago said, rul­ing out an even­tual bid for the 2028 Games, even from an­other Ital­ian city. "Be­cause they'll think peo­ple in Italy are not se­ri­ous."

Raggi said it would be fi­nan­cially "ir­re­spon­si­ble" to pur­sue the bid any fur­ther given the city is barely able to get its trash picked up. She high­lighted the debts that pre­vi­ous Olympic host cities have in­curred and the unfinished in­fra­struc­ture al­ready blight­ing Rome from pre­vi­ous sport­ing bids as rea­sons to jus­tify the with­drawal.

"In light of the data we have, th­ese Olympics are not sus­tain­able. un­sus­tain­able They will bring only debt," she said. "We don't want sports to be­come an­other pre­text for more ce­ment foun­da­tions in the city. We won't al­low it."

Raggi drew up a mo­tion to with­draw the bid yes­ter­day and put it be­fore the city assem­bly, which has the fi­nal say. There was no im­me­di­ate word if and when the coun­cil would take it up.

Malago said the com­mit­tee would con­tinue work­ing on the bid in the ab­sence of a for­mal vote, not­ing the next dossier must be sub­mit­ted to the IOC on Oc­to­ber 7.

"If there's no for­mal act, we can con­tinue," he said. "They can't just de­clare it in a news con­fer­ence."

In­deed, ri­val cities weren't ready to count Rome out al­to­gether.

"There is no con­fir­ma­tion that Rome has de­parted from the 2024 race and as such it is not ap­pro­pri­ate for us to of­fer any com­ment ex­cept to wish our Ital­ian col­leagues well dur­ing this pe­riod of dif­fi­cult time," the Bu­dapest Olympic com­mit­tee said.

Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer who is Rome's first fe­male mayor, was elected in June rep­re­sent­ing the anti-es­tab­lish­ment 5-Star Move­ment.

The Rome bid was ap­proved by the city assem­bly last year with 38 votes in fa­vor and only six against — mean­ing Raggi will 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.

Pre­vi­ous Mayor Ig­nazio Marino, who was forced out over an ex­pense ac­count scan­dal, had sup­ported the bid. And Pre­mier Mat­teo Renzi has been a big fan of the can­di­dacy since he helped launch it in 2014. He has said the bid would be doomed if Rome's mayor doesn't sup­port it.

A bud­get of 24 mil­lion eu­ros ($27 mil­lion) has al­ready been al­lot­ted — much of it spent — to the bid com­mit­tee, even though can­di­dacy head Luca Cordero di Mon­teze­molo has no salary.

Raggi's re­jec­tion was an­other sting­ing blow for the IOC's "Olympic Agenda 2020" pro­gram, which was de­signed to make bid­ding for and host­ing the games more flex­i­ble and more af­ford­able.

"Rome was able to bid only af­ter the IOC changed its rules with Agenda 2020 and re­duced the costs of putting to­gether a can­di­dacy," Malago said.

The bid had been 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 and fin­ish­ing un­der the Arch of Con­stan­tine. Plus, a nightly pa­rade of ath­letes at the Colos­seum.

Re­ly­ing on many venues that were used for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the can­di­dacy pro­posed us­ing ex­ist­ing struc­tures for 70 per­cent of the re­quired sites. The bud­get had been pro­jected at 5.3 bil­lion eu­ros ($6 bil­lion) — 2.1 bil­lion eu­ros for the con­struc­tion of per­ma­nent venues and the bal­ance for tem­po­rary venues.

The with­drawal is 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 and was re­placed by Los An­ge­les.

"It's very up­set­ting," Rome bid vice pres­i­dent Luca Pan­calli said. "It's like we started a race and some­one gets out of the pool in the mid­dle of the race and says we're not rac­ing any longer."

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