By Duncan Mackay

Mario Monti_in_front_of_Italian_and_EU_flagJanuary 27 - Rome officials must wait until next month to discover whether the Italian Government will back their bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

They face an anxious few weeks after Prime Minister Mario Monti (pictured) delayed a decision following a meeting of Ministers in Milan today.

A decision "will come by the deadline - meaning mid-February" Monti said.

The deadline set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the six cities who have expressed an interest in bidding for the Games is February 15. 

Monti claimed that he is "closely considering the issue" based on the reports given to him earlier this month by Rome 2020 officials. 

Mario Pescante, the President of Rome 2020, has again appealed to Monti to back the campaign which would pitch them against Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.

"Dear Monti, don't let us throw in the towel, and let us continue to keep our flag flying high," he said.

"An Olympics will reinvigorate growth."

Gianni Petrucci, the President of CONI, Italy's Olympic governing body, meanwhile, has warned that if Rome do not go for the Games in 2020 they face a tough challenge in 2024 when bidders from South Africa and the United States could join the race.

But Rome's campaign has been undermined by Pietro Mennea, the former world record holder for 200 metres and 1980 Moscow Olympic champion, who has claimed that Italy should not bid when it is in the midst of an economic crisis.

"It's unthinkable to try and organise the 2020 Games," he said in an interview published in Corriere della Sera.

"We're a nation devastated by a scary economic crisis.

"How could we think about proposing something like this now?"

Pietro Mennea_in_suitMennea (pictured), whose world record set in 1979 stood for 17 years until Michael Johnson broke it, is former member of the European Parliament.

He disputed figures produced earlier this month by the bid team which claimed that if they hosted the Games it would cost the city €8.2 billion (£6.8 billion/$10.5 billion) but the country's economy would stand to grow by €17.7 billion (£14.8 billion/$22.7 billion) in the period 2012 to 2025.

"Zero-cost Olympics don't exist," he said.

"The real priorities of the country lie elsewhere.

"If Rome skips 2020 that doesn't mean it can't organise the Games ever again."

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno claimed that Mennea's remarks were based on ignorance. 

'With all the respect, I think in this case he would have done well to measure his words better," said Alemanno.

"If you haven't seen the dossier and the papers it's difficult to offer opinions.

"The majority of Italian sportsmen are supportive."

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