Why Agenda 2020 needs to be updated after Rome’s Olympic withdrawal…

Now there are only three candidate cities for the 2024 Olympic Games left: Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris, because the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has officially stated that it would be irresponsible to support her city’s candidature.

The final decision has yet to be voted on by Rome’s City Council, but it is highly unlikely that the mayor’s decision will be rejected, because her party, ‘Movimento 5 Stelle’, has the majority and because “no to the Olympics” was one of her strong slogans during the election campaign. It would take something truly catastrophic to change the situation and that would compel the mayor, just recently elected, to resign … No, the verdict it seems, is no hope for Rome.

BIG HIT It is clear that the Roman choice is a big blow for Agenda 2020, which sought to reassure the local administrators of possible candidate cities.

Raggi explained that her decision was also based on a study done by University of Oxford, which shows that all Olympic host cities have cited heavy deficits for years after the Games, which weigh on taxpayers.

Rome’s mayor also cited the case of Italy 90, where debts from the FIFA World Cup, were paid off only this year. There are still debts to pay for the Winter Olympics in Torino 2006.

Raggi also wasted no time in denying the proposal of Montezemolo and Malagò, the president of Roma 2024 and the Italian Olympic Committee, to participate in the review of the candidature in order to avoid as many extra costs as possible.

MONTI Four years ago, Rome’s candidature for the 2020 Games was withdrawn by Prime Minister at the time Mario Monti, who had argued that the economic conditions weren’t there for Rome to enter the race, while Rome’s mayor was then in favor. This time Prime Minister Renzi is a keen supporter of the bid, but the city’s mayor is against it…. Raggi has no knowledge of sports and therefore does not have a precise idea of what it means to host an Olympic Games, but she is concerned that negative public opinion could overwhelm her new political career if she says yes to the Olympics.

CORRUPTION The mayor is afraid of possible real-estate speculation, and corruption, and the investment into new infrastructure that will then no longer be used. It is clear that, by claiming that the Olympics are nothing more than a huge cost and a source of possible corruption, she quickly found the support of naysayers whenever it comes to investments. Many of the city’s doubts about the fairness of procedures and transparency of investments are legitimate, but this time, it could have been possible to find an opening, with the active participation of city council representatives.

THE INSULT Roma 2024’s Malagò and Montezemolo were at the city Parliament at Campidoglio to meet Virginia Raggi before her scheduled press conference. They waited for 37 minutes after which they left, furious, because after setting up the meeting herself, Raggi was intentionally late.

CONI Malagò then organized a press conference just after the one of Raggi. The president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was the one who started the history of Rome’s bid, the child, the product of the will and belief of so many in town. Malagò reminded everyone that Rome entered into the race because of Agenda 2020, and the new rules that allowed for the city to be more flexible in their bid projects. The plan was to give new life to the facilities that were not being used and to operate with a number of temporary facilities.

“We have said to Raggi many times, ‘Let’s work together’. She has said that Hamburg, Boston and Madrid has decided not to go through with their candidatures. But she doesn’t have the knowledge of what really happened. We started this project because everyone agreed. There is no real motivation behind this ‘no’. This is not acceptable. We are losing international credibility.”

HISTORY Since June this year, when she was elected, Virginia Raggi has insisted that she was against Rome’s candidature. So this is nothing new. Malagò and Montezemolo had hoped though, that the support shown by many of Rome’s citizens, for the candidature, including some Raggi’s own cabinet members, could turn her ‘no’ into a yes. But it was only a dream. This is the third time that an Italian bid withdraws in the last 20 years, first was Milan at the end of the 90s, then came Rome four years ago and now it’s the capital withdrawing again. In the midst of all that, Turin bid for – and won the hosting rights of the 2006 Winter Games.

POLITICAL MATTER Rome’s decision may well influence other cities in the future, those that are thinking of bidding for the next Olympics. Millions of people followed the competitions in Rio with emotion, but now many are also doubtful due to so much negative coverage on corruption, doping and matchfixing. These black clouds are not healthy for an Olympic movement that is asking for so many sacrifices from taxpayers. The ‘bad guys’ must be kicked out very quickly, but it is also time for Agenda 2020 to be updated, and to open new possibilities. It won’t be easy, but it is a must.