Supporters of a possible referendum on the Rome 2024 Olympic and Paralympic bid have slammed the "seriously illegitimate" decision of the City Council to seemingly end any prospect of a public ballot being held.
The Rome Municipality's Capital Committee on Referendums ruled last month that a public vote on whether to press ahead with the bid could be held following its submission by the Italian Radicals Political Party, so long as there were 30,000 signatures calling for one.
It was claimed that a ballot similar to those held in other cities would be vital to ascertain local support for the bid.
But the Council has now backtracked on this decision after receiving a letter from the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) which urged them to reconsider.
CONI claimed the bid is a nationwide one so should not be affected by purely Roman opinion, while they also accused the Radicals of wrongly claiming that both the Hamburg and Boston 2024 bids were derailed by similar referendums.
While the German bid was dropped last year after a surprise referendum defeat, Boston's was abandoned earlier in 2015 due to a failure to gain political support, before a proposed public vote was held.
"The Rome City Council chose to derail a potential referendum on the Rome 2024 Olympic bid after the request of CONI that submitted a complaint regarding the referendum’s wording," a spokesperson from Rome 2024, who support the CONI stance, told insidethegames.
"This was essentially due to two main reasons.
"The first stems from a responsibility issue: the Rome 2024 bid envisages the candidature of our country’s Capital but sees a true engagement of 12 other Italian cities as outlined in the Candidature File presented to the IOC last 17 February.
"And this is why it’s considered a national project that will interest not only Rome but our entire country.
"The second reason concerns a wrong assumption: the Radical party, in the referendum they have proposed, refer to Boston’s candidature as having withdrawn after a referendum.
"This, as we know, is incorrect - therefore the referendum has been shelved."
Those calling for the referendum have reacted furiously, claiming CONI should not have intervened and that the City Council have no legal right to suspend the process.
This is a "horrible moment for democracy and for the rights of citizens", claimed Radicals Party spokesperson Riccardo Magi.
They had planned to use next month's Mayoral elections on June 5 as a platform to begin their campaign to raise the 30,000 signatures, a figure amounting to one per cent of the total electorate.
If the referendum is indeed scrapped, this will come as a major relief to the Rome team as well as for the International Olympic Committee, who will be keen to avoid any prospect of one of the four remaining candidates exiting the race.
Every referendum held in recent years on an Olympic bid has failed, except for one in Oslo in 2013 on a 2022 Winter bid that was dropped the following year anyway amid plummeting public and political support.
Challenges in Rome remain, however, as Mayoral favourite Virginia Raggi remains firmly opposed to the Olympic bid at a time of economic unease.
All Raggi's rivals support the bid, but Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has warned how victory for an anti-Games candidate means that we "won't be able to host the Olympics anymore".
Rome is up against Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris in a four-horse race to host the 2024 Games.
A final decision is due to be made at the 2017 IOC Session in Lima.