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