Rome's bid for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics has provoked a mixed reaction in Italy, with Papal support countered by concerns over whether the city can afford the Games due to a perilous financial and political situation.
Support for the bid was confirmed yesterday by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who promised an "affordable" campaign, seeking to capitalise on pre-existing facilities outside the capital, in places like Florence, Naples and Sardinia.
Pope Francis, the Argentinean renowned for being a keen-sports fan, has reportedly already expressed his backing for the plans and wishes for events, potentially including archery and football, to be held within the Vatican itself.
He is due to meet Italian National Olympic Committee chief Giovanni Malago on Friday (December 19) for discussions, it has been revealed.
"The Church has always defended sport because its values are not only Christian but universal, I think Francis will approve," said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
"It teaches you how to put human values such as compromise and collaboration in practice overcoming division."
Olympic football matches should be played at the Vatican "as it is a great passion of mine as well as of the Pope", the Cardinal added.
Archery at the Vatican Gardens and other sports at the Papal Summer Palace at Castel Gandolfo were also muted.
But there has been a far less positive reaction elsewhere, with various political figures lambasting the bid as an act of "madness" given the current political climate, which saw the city abandon its bid for the 2020 Games in 2012.
Construction projects for an Olympic Games would only further benefit illegal business ventures, including those controlled by the Mafia, it is claimed.
"Proposing Rome as a future Olympic city is like painting an old Fiat 500 red and hoping people will believe it's a Ferrari," said Luca Zaia, Governor of the Veneto region and a leading figure in the right-wing Northern League party.
"We are extremely concerned about the decision," a statement from fellow opposition group, the Five Star Party, added.
"The Olympic Games in Athens set off the domino effect of the economic crisis and we are seriously worried that the same thing could happen to Italy."
Rome's only Olympic Games came in happier economic times in 1960, although Turin hosted the 2006 Winter version.
Rome had also been awarded the 1908 Olympics before relinquishing the hosting rights to London two years beforehand following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which killed over 100 people and ejected the most lava ever recorded from a Vesuvian eruption.
The Italian capital also bid unsuccessfully for the 1924, 1936 and 2004 editions, awarded to Paris, Berlin and Athens respectively.
The city is likely to face opposition this time around from the United States, with one of Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., expected to be confirmed as the US contender later today.
Germany is expected to put forward either Berlin or Hamburg, while Paris, Istanbul and Budapest are also considering bids.
Baku, Doha and either Pretoria or Gauteng Province in South Africa are other potential contenders.
Although the deadline for confirming bids is September 15 next year, a special invitation phase for the 2024 Olympic bid process will start on January 15, with the IOC keen to provide more consultation with cities in order to generate more popular support.
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