The Mediterranean Games flag has been risen in Taranto ©CIJM

The Organising Committee for the 2026 Mediterranean Games has been formally constituted after a short flag raising ceremony in the host city of Taranto in southern Italy.

Creating the Organising Committee for the 2026 Games had been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Mayor Rinaldo Melucci signed official papers alongside representatives of the Italian National Olympic Committee.

Michele Emiliano, the President of the regional authority of Apulia, is set to chair the Committee and was also present.

The flag of the Mediterranean Games was hoisted at Taranto City Hall.

"Today, we started to march towards Taranto 2026," said Melucci. 

"By the end of the year we will have prepared the master plan for the Mediterranean Games.

"We are working to deliver, for the future and for our children, a radical transition of the city.

"The Games will allow us to show our citizens and visitors an attractive and efficient Taranto."

Construction on facilities for the Games is expected to begin next year. 

"Today we have signed the statutes of the association which will organise the Mediterranean Games," Emiliano told local media. 

"This shows that the pandemic has not stopped us.

Taranto, in Italy's heel, will host the 2026 Mediterranean Games ©Getty Images
Taranto, in Italy's heel, will host the 2026 Mediterranean Games ©Getty Images

"Taranto remains at the top of priorities for the Puglia region. 

"Above all this symbol of life and hope that is the Mediterranean Games will support us in the construction of a strategic plan for the city and in the struggle that we are carrying out to combat the other problems of the city.

"It is a formal moment but also the kick-off to an exciting adventure. 

"When we embarked on this path, we did not think we would get this far. 

"We have surprised ourselves."

The 2026 Games mascot is set to be a dolphin called Ionios after an online poll which attracted some 10,000 votes.

Described as a "naughty dolphin with a punk hairstyle", the character polled 48 per cent ahead of alternatives depicting a merman "superhero" and a mussel.

Taranto was the only candidate for the Games which were originally scheduled for 2025. 

The city was formally selected last year when the International Committee of Mediterranean Games (CIJM) met before the Mediterranean Beach Games in Patras.

A decision has been made by the CIJM to move the Games to an even years cycle, beginning with the 2022 edition in Algerian city Oran.