February 11 - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will make a decision on whether Rome will bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics on Monday (February 13) after returning from the United States, where he has been visiting President Barack Obama.
Earlier this week 60 of the country's best-known sportsmen and women, including footballer Francesco Totti, a member of Italy's 2006 World Cup winning squad, and triple Olympic skiing champion Deborah Compagnoni, had put their names to an open letter published in eight newspapers appealing for Monti to back the bid despite the economic crisis that has engulfed Italy.
They were joined by 40 well known Italian actors, singers and television personalities, including two Oscar winners Giuseppe Tornatore and Ennio Morricone, who sent a separate appeal to Monti to give the Government guarantees necessary for Rome to put in its Applicant City file by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline of next Wednesday (February 15).
"We are now down to the wire with very little time left before the deadline to present Rome's bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games," said the sportsmen and women in an open letter to Monti
"In the course of our careers, we have had the privilege of wearing the national colours and bringing honor to Italy around the world.
"Ours has been the result of years of sacrifice, commitment and hard choices.
"Italy is also being called upon today to make important sacrifices but, just as in sport, the critical motivation comes from the hope of a great result."
Other leading names to sign the letter included Fiona May, the 1995 world long jump champion, and Valentino Rossi, the seven-time MotoGP champion, and Alex Zanardi, the former Formula One driver who is now hoping to compete in the handbike at the London 2012 Paralympics following an accident which left him paralysed.
"For our country, this result is our future," they write.
"We are convinced that bringing the Olympic Games to Italy would give everyone, and especially our young people, that injection of optimism that our country needs to reawaken our national pride.
"Dear Prime Minister, we are side-by-side with you in the great actions that your are undertaking and we are certain that you share our sentiments.
"For this reason, we are asking that you ensure the Government's support for this extraordinary challenge, this unmistakable opportunity for the development and revitalisation of our Country.
"Let's get in the game; all together, we can win it!"
Monti has been criticised by Mario Pescante, the IOC vice-president who is the head of Rome 2020, claiming that the delay it is sending the wrong messages with rivals Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo already all having received the necessary Government guarantees.
He has received powerful backing from some of the country's best-known cultural icons, who include model Monica Bellucci (pictured).
"The Olympic Games are not only a major sporting event, but also a unique opportunity to promote a country's cultural and artistic riches to the world," they said in their letter.
"This is especially true for Italy who has for centuries been on the top of the medal table in this discipline.
"Rome 2020 would be an unforgettable opportunity to exchange and bring together different languages, traditions and expressive forms in a way to relaunch our global image.
"Bidding for the Olympic Games is a sign of confidence in ourselves, in our young people and the ability for Italy to get moving again, also thanks to our creativity.
"Precisely because this is not just some unattainable dream that we all, including the Government, have to show that we still have desire to soar to great heights."
Earlier this week Obama said at the White House that he had "great confidence in the [Italian] Prime Minister's leadership and his ability to navigate Italy through this difficult time."
It is not known whether they discussed the Olympics.
Obama was an enthusiastic supporter of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics but was left humiliated when the American city was eliminated in the first round of voting despite him flying into the IOC Session in Copenhagen in 2009 especially to pitch on their behalf.
Gianni Alemanno, Rome's Mayor, however, is confident that the impressive sign of support for the Italian capital will help persude Monti to give the go-ahead.
"[The] letter sent by artists and entertainers to Cabinet President Monti, and the declarations of representatives of the world of economy and industry, consolidates the whole of society in favour of Rome's candidacy as the host of the Olympics and Paralympics 2020," he said.
"All these appeals to Monti are the clearest sign that all of Italy believes in this candidacy and I hope that they may be an element of further reflection, so that the Government may sign the candidacy letter."
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