Rome 2024 bid is still alive, says Italian Olympic chief

ROME • Italian Olympic chief Giovanni Malago insists Rome's dream of hosting the 2024 Olympic Games is not over, despite a crushing blow to their bid by the city's own Mayor.

Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest are the cities hoping to stage the Games in eight years' time.

But the Italian capital now looks to be out of contention after an unequivocal "no" was delivered by the city's new Mayor, Virginia Raggi, on Wednesday.

Malago refuted Raggi's argument that the Eternal City, rocked by a scandal last year which revealed the extent of mafia involvement in city-building projects under former mayor Ignazio Marino, could ill afford to be burdened with the financial costs of holding an Olympics.

Malago, who is now expected to turn to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for continued support of Roma 2024, said that he will not give up hope until the bid is dead and buried.

"Hearing 'no' hurts. I'm very sorry. It was possible to do this, and do it well," he said.

"We will continue (with the bid) until I hear a formal no."

Yet, the Italian Olympic Committee chief now faces a huge task if he is to turn momentum around.

Raggi highlighted the spiralling deficits of former host cities and, in a reference to the building work that would be required, said she opposed another "concrete Olympics".

"The debts related to the Torino Winter Games in 2006 are still ongoing. I say no to another concrete Olympics," she said.

"We are effectively asking the people of Rome and of Italy to shoulder the debts. 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."

The Sochi Winter Games in 2014 cost more than US$51 billion (S$69 billion).

Malago has maintained a Rome Olympics would cost a fraction of that, claiming that the estimated €5.3 billion (S$8 billion) budget would come exclusively from the Olympic Committee, sponsors and state coffers.

"The estimate of our costs was a tenth of what Sochi cost," he said.

He also claimed Raggi had crucially failed to understand the changes to the Olympic movement that would have helped Rome curb spending.

In a bid to ease the financial burden on host cities, notably thanks to a "significant financial contribution from the IOC", the International Olympic Committee launched Olympic Agenda 2020 - described as a "strategic road map for the Olympic movement".

Malago said: "We were candidates because the rules of the game had changed. I'm sorry that Raggi didn't remember this. This is a crucial point."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Rome 2024 bid is still alive, says Italian Olympic chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe