ROME – Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, who has long opposed the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, will announce her decision on the candidacy on Wednesday.
Raggi was scheduled to meet with Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malagó and bid vice president Luca Pancalli, then hold a news conference at city hall. But 45 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to begin, Malagó and the rest of the delegation left city hall saying Raggi hadn’t shown up.
Raggi, who was elected in June representing the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, has maintained that an Olympic bid is unsustainable for a city struggling to emerge from years of corruption and poor public services.
It could mark Rome’s second withdrawal in four years after then-Premier Mario Monti stopped the city’s plans to bid for the 2020 Games because of financial problems.
If Rome withdraws, only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, would remain in the running for the 2024 Olympics.
The IOC will decide on the host city in September 2017.
The Rome bid was approved by the city assembly last year with 38 votes in favor and only six against — meaning Raggi may have to put the issue up for another vote to officially end the candidacy if she decides not to support it.
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.
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.
The bid is 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 Games in Rome, the candidacy proposes using existing structures for 70 percent of the required sites. The budget is projected at $6 billion — 2.1 billion euros for the construction of permanent venues and the balance for temporary venues.
The bid is based on three clusters: the existing Stadio Olimpico and surrounding Foro Italico complex for athletics and swimming; the Fiera convention center near the airport for indoor sports; and an athletes village and multi-sports arena at the Tor Vergata University on the city’s outskirts.
A withdrawal would be 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 could also be 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.
The reforms were aimed at avoiding a repeat of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, which was depleted by the withdrawal of four cities — Stockholm; Oslo; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland — for political or financial reasons. Many politicians and taxpayers were scared off by the billions spent by Russia on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Planned 2022 bids by Munich and St. Moritz-Davos in Switzerland were dropped earlier. With only two final contenders for 2022, Beijing defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the IOC vote last year.
Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer who is Rome’s first female mayor, said during her candidacy that the city needed to focus on ordinary issues before it should consider “extraordinary events” like the Olympics.
Raggi has had a rough start since taking office, with her administration falling into disarray over a spate of resignations and judicial inquiries.
During her campaign, Raggi promised to fix Rome’s transport, garbage and corruption scandals.