By Tom Degun

Giovanni Malago head and shouldersFebruary 19 - Giovanni Malago has been elected as the new President of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), replacing Giovanni Petrucci.

Malago, a 53-year-old luxury car businessman, narrowly edged out Raffaele Pagnozzi to take the Presidency by 40 votes to 35 at the elections at the CONI headquarters in Rome.

Pagnozzi, who serves as the European Olympic Committees (EOC) secretary general, was considered the slight favourite heading into the election but Malago managed to claim the win by five votes.

Malago becomes the 21st President of CONI, with his predecessor Petrucci stepping down having been in the role for four consecutive terms since 1999.

"In sport it's difficult to win, but it's also difficult not to win," said an emotional Malago following his victory.

"I embrace Pagnozzi.

"I consider this job to be the most important there is in this country.

"I'll do everything to honour it."

Giovanni Malago 3Giovanni Malago embraced rival Raffaele Pagnozzi after beating him to the position of CONI President

Malago has long been a respected figure in the Italian sporting world and drew widespread plaudits when he headed the Local Organising Committee for the hugely successful 2009 FINA World Aquatics Championships, which were staged in Rome.

The next major task on Malago's agenda could be spearheading a bid from Rome for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Rome originally launched a bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games but the Italian capital pulled out in February last year after the Government refused to back it because of the economy crisis engulfing the country.

The move caused Italy's Mario Pescante, CONI President from 1993 to 1998, to resign from his position as vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as he said he was bit "embarrassed to be representing a country which has thrown in the towel early."

But despite pulling out of the 2020 bid race, Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno has already talked up the possibility of the city moving for 2024, where Malago would be required to play a crucial role.

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