Italy rules out Olympic bid
Rome - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Tuesday withdrew Rome as a candidate to host the 2020 Olympic Games, describing a planned bid as "irresponsible".
Just a day before the deadline for submitting host city bids to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Italian leader decided the current economic crisis would make such a financial commitment untenable.
"After a difficult evaluation we've arrived at the unanimous conclusion that the government believes it would not be responsible in the current conditions in Italy to take on these guarantees," said Monti in a press conference.
"We don't feel capable of taking on a financial commitment that could burden the Italian finances over the coming years.
"In another moment of history we could have carried the risk, but not now."
The contenders for the 2020 Games are now Madrid, Baku, Doha, Istanbul and Tokyo.
Whilst Spain too is embroiled in a severe financial crisis, Alejandro Blanco, the head of their National Olympic Committee, told AFP they would not be following in Rome's wake.
"The withdrawal of Rome changes nothing for our candidacy," said Blanco by phone.
"It is not the time to be talking about that."
Madrid - who came second to Rio de Janeiro for the right to host the 2016 Games - at least has 80% of the required infrastructure already built or nearly finished after their two losing bids for the 2012 and 2016 editions.
Rome would have needed a letter of commitment from the government in order to submit it's bid officially with the IOC.
The government took the decision even though only nine of the 42 sites required to host the Games would have needed to be built from scratch, the others solely needing to be renovated.
Mario Pescante, the president of the Promotion Committee for Rome 2020, admitted this was a bitter pill to swallow.
"We've lost a great opportunity but we can only accept the government's decision, there's a lot of bitterness," he said.
"The government's decision was well thought out and was due exclusively to economic motives.
"Our project for Rome 2020 was very serious but the government was immovable on the accounts.
"It's a shame because it was a unique opportunity not least to say to the young that we have big ambitions."
Pescante also suggested that any future bid for Rome, which last hosted the Games in 1960, may now be off the cards for some time.
"For a possible bid in 2024 we'd have to take into account Africa and if the 2020 Games are not assigned to Europe, Paris will enter the running for 2024 and their centenary," said Pescante.
"That means that there will be no more talk of the Olympic Games in Italy for another 10 years."
Italian Minister for Tourism and Sport Piero Gnudi, who last month had not given organisers much encouragement, praised the government's decision.
"It was a very tough decision but we shared the problems there are and we've approved our president's decision," said Gnudi.
"That doesn't mean that this government doesn't want to promote the values of sport.
"We want to increase and promote the practice of sport in schools."
Italian athletics legend and 200m Olympic champion in Moscow in 1980 Pietro Mennea agreed with the decision as well.
"There are more important things than Olympic values," he said.
"And I say this even though I am someone who competed in five Olympic Games and who is a believer in Olympic values."