Dec 15, 2014 6:29 AM
Italian PM Renzi announces Rome 2024 Olympic bid
The Associated Press
ROME (AP) Italy announced Monday that Rome will be a candidate to host the 2024 Olympics, a decision that comes two years after the government scrapped plans to bid for the 2020 Games because of financial reasons.
"The Italian government, together with CONI, is ready to do its part for a project that isn't based on great infrastructures or big dreams but rather great people," Premier Matteo Renzi said at Italian Olympic Committee headquarters. "We will be at the vanguard for all the spending controls."
Italy, which hosted the 1960 Olympics, planned to bid for the 2020 Games but the project was withdrawn after then-premier Mario Monti refused to provide financial backing at a time of economic crisis.
The new bid comes with Italy's economy still stagnant and amid a widening corruption scandal in the capital.
"Our country too often seems hesitant," Renzi said. "It's unacceptable not to try ... or to renounce playing the game."
"Italy has all it needs to face its problems," Renzi added. "You can't not dream."
Taking into account the cost-cutting measures approved last week by the IOC, the Rome bid is expected to include many of the venues used for the 1960 Games notably the Foro Italico complex that includes the Stadio Olimpico athletics and football stadium, plus swimming, diving and tennis facilities.
The Rome bid could also propose holding several events outside the capital, including sailing in Sardinia and preliminary basketball and volleyball rounds scattered in cities up and down the peninsula.
"The bid will obviously be centered on Rome," Renzi said. "But it will also involve Florence, Naples and Sardinia. ... We're making this bid to win."
Italy is the second country to declare its intention to bid. Germany has already announced that it will submit a bid from either Berlin or Hamburg, with the choice to be made in March.
France is likely to approve a Paris bid next month, and the U.S. Olympic Committee will make a decision Tuesday on whether to bid. The potential U.S. candidate will be either Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington.
Other possible contenders include Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Baku, Azerbaijan; Istanbul, Turkey; Budapest, Hungary; and a city or province in South Africa.
The 2024 host will be chosen by the International Olympic Committee in 2017. The deadline for submission of bids to the IOC is September 2015.
Rome was the first to announce a bid for the 2020 Games but Monti said in February 2012 that the government would not provide the required financial guarantees for the multi-billion-dollar project. He said it would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer money.
Two premiers later, Italy is still mired in recession. Youth employment has topped 40 percent and government efforts to revive the economy have yet to get the country growing again.
"The biggest hurdle will be convincing public opinion," Italian IOC member Mario Pescante said. "There needs to be transparency. If there's not a consensus it's difficult to conduct a battle like this one."
The biggest change since Monti's rejection, according to Pescante, was the approval last week of IOC President Thomas Bach's reform package, which loosened the bidding rules and allows events to be held outside host cities.
"The IOC realized it wasn't up to date with the times," Pescante said. "And Italy, with cities like Milan, Turin, Venice, and even Sardinia, can compete with anyone in that respect."
The bid announcement also comes amid a widening mafia scandal in Rome, which has resulted in nearly 40 arrests in recent weeks and former Mayor Gianni Alemanno being placed under investigation.
Phone conversations intercepted by police and published in the media have described how local criminal bosses managed to cement ties with city politicians over lucrative public contracts.
The unfolding drama is the latest corruption scandal to hit Italy after a series of arrests earlier this year involving two major public works projects: Milan's Expo 2015 world's fair and Venice's Moses project to build sea barriers to protect the lagoon city from flooding.
Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio contributed.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf