“No cathedrals in the desert”: Rome drops bid for 2024 Olympics

The organisers of Rome’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics have given up in the face of trenchant opposition from the city’s anti-establishment mayor and the city council.

Leader of the bid, Rome 2024 President and businessman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, conceded that the attempt was "closed" on Saturday.

"The Olympics is a closed discourse, just closed," Di Montezemolo was quoted by Italian press as saying in Florence on 1 October, reports Inside The Games.

No to the Olympics of concrete, absolutely not!– Virginia Raggi, Rome’s mayor

His statement follows a vote last week by the city council to back Rome’s new mayor Virginia Raggi (pictured) in opposing the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires a candidate city to have local government as well as national government support for its bid.

Rome’s departure leaves just Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest as candidate cities for the 2024 Summer Games.

Raggi, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which won local elections in Rome and Turin in June, has long held that hosting the Olympics would waste money, leave Rome further in debt, and breed corruption.

Despite pressure from Rome 2024, Italian Olympic medalists and even the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, she effectively doomed Rome’s bid earlier in September by confirming her opposition.

"No to the Olympics of concrete, absolutely not!" she told reporters. "No to cathedrals in the desert," she added, repeating her claim that Rome would saddled with redundant sports facilities.

Prior to conceding defeat, Rome 2024 tried to counter Raggi’s claims by insisting that its bid relied on only two new facilities being built, a water sports park and a cycling arena.

Rome would not have to spend city cash on anything, organisers said, because the national government would pay, adding that hosting the Games would bring investment and create 177,000 jobs.

The IOC is finding it harder to attract potential hosts as cities in developed countries are becoming increasingly reluctant to bid.

Anti-Olympics attitudes have been reinforced by recent academic research on the damaging effects hosting the Games can have.

Researchers at Said Business School, University of Oxford, calculated that from 1968 to 2016, every single Olympic Games ended up costing more than originally estimated. The average cost overrun is 156%.

A study by US academics Robert Baade and Victor Matheson this year found that in most cases the Olympics are a money-losing proposition.

Image: Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi (Livioandronico2013/Wikimedia Commons)

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