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Rome to launch today its official bid for the 2024 Olympic games

by Andrea Marini

To understand just what the 2024 Olympic run means for Italy and Rome you’ve got to consider the games that took place in the Italian capital in far-away 1960. Gold medals were showered on a nation experiencing an all-out economic boom, with GDP that year growing by 5.4% and surging by 8.4% the following year - growth that today is characteristic of India or China - thanks to massive public spending programs. Some 64 billion in old lire were spent. That’s not much (it’s the equivalent of €852 million) if you think that the Beijing Olympics cost €39 billion.

For Rome and for Italy, the games represent a unique opportunity to emerge from stagnation, with GDP, even before the economic crisis, rising at a rate of one or two points below the European average. Today, Rome city council will vote on a motion that will make its candidacy for the 2024 games official, following approval by the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last December to move forward with the bid.

It’s a decision that was greeted with euphoria in the capital, after a big disappointment in 2012 when the government of Mario Monti nixed the possibility of making a run at the 2020 games - even though Rome was considered one of the cities with the best chance of winning. But those were other economic times, with the government of the nation hard pressed, risking default and unable to guarantee that it could fund the enterprise.

With respect to 2020, for now, there’s only one rival: Paris has already laid out a €6 billion budget plan and can offer a top-rate infrastructure system - from the Roland Garros tennis courts to the Stadium of France. But mostly it has an international appeal that could prove alluring to the 100 delegates of the International Olympic Committee who will announce their candidacy in September of 2017.

One the city green-lights the bid, the Rome organizing committee will aim to present a complete plan within a year, by which time it hopes to have the Mafia Capital investigation behind it. The investigation that started last December has brought to light disturbing links between organized crime, public tenders for social services and other activities and politicians on both the center-right and center-left.

Potential candidates have until September 15 to make a formal bid, and until January 17 of 2017 to present their plan for the event. In 2017, the aborted bid called for €12.7 billion of mixed public-private investment. Early indications are that this time around the cost is about €6 billion - which could fall after €1.5 billion from the committee.

A cycling stadium and an Olympic city would have to be built, most likely in the Northern part of the city. Everything else could be adapted from existing structures.

The event could contribute 1 percentage point to GDP, according to estimates. There would be a return of €2.2 for every €1 invested in Rome, and about 23,000 new jobs.