Rome Olympic chief's fury at mayor's bid veto

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Giovanni Malago was left waiting for a meeting with the mayor, who failed to turn up

The Italian Olympic chief has reacted angrily to the Rome mayor's decision to reject the city's bid to host the 2024 Games, and has vowed to fight on.

Calling the decision "demagogic and populist", Giovanni Malago insisted the project was financially viable.

Mayor Virginia Raggi, elected in June, said holding the Games in Rome would be "irresponsible", and would leave the Italian capital indebted.

Boston and Hamburg have already dropped out of the running for the 2024 Games.

"Hearing 'no' hurts," the head of the Italian Olympic Committee said. "I'm very sorry. It was possible to do this, and do it well. We will continue [with the bid] until I hear a formal no." Asked if the bid could now go on, he said "let's see".

The committee chief was due to meet Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday to see if the bid could be salvaged ahead of a final vote by Rome's council next week. However, Italian media said the prime minister was unlikely to intervene.

"Is there an alternative project for the city that will create new jobs?" Mr Malago asked.

"For the first time not even one of the environmental organisations opposed the project. Even the trade unions backed it."

Why Raggi said no: Analysis by James Reynolds, BBC News, Rome

Image source, Roma 2024

In ancient times here, Roman emperors offered the thrill of bread and circuses to appease and divert a restless population.

That tactic, it seems, no longer works. These days, Rome is a city which can barely pick up its own rubbish.

Among many Romans, the idea of hosting an Olympic Games hasn't provoked much enthusiasm. The new mayor knows that. She comes from the populist Five Star Movement, which has strongly opposed a bid for the Games.

Ms Raggi has had a difficult first few weeks in power. Her tenure has been overshadowed by accusations of mismanagement and cover-ups. Rejecting the Olympics may be her way of winning back popularity and asserting her own authority over the city.

Ms Raggi, from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, suggested that Rome would have been left with redundant sports facilities.

"No to cathedrals in the desert," she said, adding that Rome was still paying out for the Games it hosted in 1960.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Virginia Raggi told reporters that she was not prepared to allow the city to sink further into debt

Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest are still vying to host the Games.

The International Olympic Committee will elect the host at a vote in Lima, Peru, in September 2017, with Paris considered the favourite.

How much does it cost to host the Olympics?

Rome bid officials set a budget of €5.3bn (£4.5bn; $6bn) to host the Games, with a plan to use existing venues for 70% of the sites.

That was a template used by Los Angeles in 1984, when existing stadiums and other facilities were used and the Games made a profit. LA's projected 2024 budget is $4.5bn (£3.5bn), with a hoped-for profit of $150m (£115m).

But most cities have made a loss. The 2004 Athens Games cost almost €9bn and increased Greece's public debt.

The 2016 Rio Games cost an estimated $12bn (£9.2bn).

London 2012 went three times over budget and cost £8.77bn ($11.4bn), although the event boosted trade and investment by an estimated £9.9bn.