Rome’s City Council voted Thursday to withdraw support for Italy’s 2024 Olympic bid, effectively putting an end to the project and closing the latest chapter in Rome’s quest to host it’s first Olympic Games since 1960. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will now likely withdraw it’s application from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The vote, held during an extraordinary meeting to ratify the motion, was called in response to a motion by Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi last week to stop the bid.
General Coordinator of Rome 2024 Diana Bianchedi attended the meeting urging councilors to weigh the bid on its merits. But with a majority of the voters representing Raggi’s Five Star Movement party, the results were seen as politically motivated.
The motion was passed by a vote of 30 for and 12 against.
Bianchedi said “Today I was expecting to be allowed to speak to the City Council.”
“They are being asked to vote on a dossier though it seems the councilors haven’t read it. I wrote the councilors a few days ago. They’re being asked to put their signature on a project they don’t know. Shouldn’t they feel morally obligated, or at least curious, to see what’s in the dossier?”
CONI and Rome 2024 will discuss a decision Friday, according to a spokesperson from the bid.
Raggi was elected Mayor in June on a platform that opposed the Olympic bid. With the Eternal City working to recover from a recession and voters seeking transparency from a government plagued with corruption, Raggi vowed to focus resources on more essential city services and called it “irresponsible” to move forward with the Olympic project.
Rome’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games was cancelled four years ago when amid a deep recession then Prime Minister Mario Monti denied essential federal backing for the project while the campaign was in full flight and with the support of the Mayor.
Now, and in a cruel twist of fate, it was Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who was championing the project – representing a party in opposition to Raggi’s – and the Mayor who pulled the plug.
CONI President Giovanni Malago said last week that with Rome pulling out of the race now twice it wouldn’t be realistic to expect “another bid in the next 20 years”.
Bid President and former Ferrari Chief Luca di Montezemolo has been outraged at Raggi’s decision lashing out at the Mayor and saying she was trying to avoid responsibility at Rome’s expense. Still, before Thursday’s vote he held out a glimmer of hope amid a Rome 2024 social media campaign apparently designed to sway voters on city council that were from Raggi’s own Five Star Movement.
The failure of Rome’s Olympic bid also sealed the fate of Italy’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Organizers of that bid announced Wednesday that they were cancelling plans.
“As it has always been closely connected to that of the Olympic Games of Rome 2024, the candidacy for the 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup has no more conditions to continue,” Rugby Federation President Alfredo Gavazzi said.
This will also be seen as a huge setback for the IOC while the organization continues to fail to attract cities interested in hosting the quadrennial sport mega-event, and to retain those that have already applied.
Rome is the second bid to drop out of the 2024 campaign after Hamburg was forced to cancel when that city narrowly lost a general referendum last year. Boston, an already declared candidate before the IOC was accepting applications, stepped back from its bid when public outrage against the project forced the Mayor to reconsider the plans. Toronto’s Mayor, after receiving the go-ahead to bid from the Canadian Olympic Committee, declined the nomination admitting that the potentially high costs and a looming referendum meant that the city was unprepared to move forward.
Four European cities (including Oslo, Krakow, Lviv and Stockholm) dropped out of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid for various economic and political reasons, leaving only two Asian cities – winner Beijing, and Almaty – to fight for the prize. Two other cities, Davos and Munich, both declined to enter the race after losing referendums.
Only Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris remain in the competition that only ten years ago would have attracted several more cities seeking to host the Games. Seven cities applied to host the 2016 Games, nine for the 2012 Games, ten to host in 2008 and eleven to receive the honor in 2004.
The IOC has hoped to counter the rapidly diminishing interest in the Games by introducing in 2014 the Olympic Agenda 2020, a set of recommendations that include changes to the bid process designed to make hosting more affordable, more sustainable and accessible to more cities. But the execution of these recommendations has yet to show any positive impact and the document is now largely seen as lip-service from the IOC.
Historically increasing costs to organize the Games and the perception that this trend has not changed is a formidable barrier for cities wishing to host the event. The IOC has tried, but so far failed to convince governments and constituents otherwise.
Citing budget concerns, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games organizers announced Thursday that they are considering further modifications to venue plans – axing proposed temporary venues and instead locating sports at existing facilities hours outside of Tokyo.
Tokyo’s struggles and Rome’s exit from the race could provide further deterrence for cities that are considering bids for the upcoming 2026 Winter Games and 2028 Summer Games campaigns – and for the IOC as it tries to regain the popularity it enjoyed a generation ago.
More to come.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.