New mayor kills off Rome's bid for 2024 Olympics

Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:41pm EDT
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By Gavin Jones and Isla Binnie

ROME (Reuters) - Rome's new mayor, Virginia Raggi, pulled the plug on the city's bid to host the 2024 Olympics, saying staging the summer games would bury the Italian capital under mountains of debt and tonnes of cement.

The decision represents a blow to the International Olympic Committee, which has already seen Boston and Hamburg abandon their 2024 bids, and is struggling to convince potential host cities that it is worth putting on the sporting extravaganza.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had championed Rome's challenge, but he needed the backing of the city council to press ahead. Raggi's decision means only Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest are left in the running to stage the 2024 games.

"It would be irresponsible for us to support this candidacy," said Raggi, whose anti-establishment 5-Star Movement took power for the first time in Rome after a landslide victory in local elections in June.

"We have nothing against the Olympics and sport ... but we don't want sport to be an excuse for more rivers of cement in the city. We won't allow that."

Rome's bid team reacted furiously, saying the decision had been taken for "ideological, political and demagogic" reasons which would deprive the city of investments worth up to $1.7 billion and the creation of nearly 200,000 jobs.

"We are disappointed that a new political force is unwilling to accept the challenge of modernization," it said in a statement, adding that the decision represented "a severe blow to Italy’s credibility worldwide".

Boston pulled out of the race over financial concerns and the residents of Hamburg voted against a bid in a referendum. The 5-Star Movement had always voiced doubts about staging the sporting spectacular, but Italy's Olympic committee had held out hopes of changing the mayor's mind.   Continued...

Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi gestures during a news conference in Rome, Italy June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli