By Tom Degun in Lausanne

ioc headquarters_15-02-12February 15 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have claimed that they respect the controversial decision from Rome to withdraw from the bid race to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The decision was made by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti who decided to withdraw Rome after declaring that "the Government does not feel able to take on the commitment" following a cabinet meeting that carefully evaluated the costs and benefits of going after the competition.

The decision came as the other bidders for the 2020 Olympics were handing in their Applicant City files at the IOC headquarters here and undoubtedly came as a blow to the Olympic governing body, who predicted that there will still be an exciting race in the absence of the Italian capital.

"We can confirm that Rome has informed the IOC that the city will no longer take part in the 2020 bidding process," an IOC spokesperson told insidethegames.

"We take note of and respect this decision.

"We still have a strong group of Applicant Cities bidding to host the Olympic Games in 2020 and the IOC looks forward to an exciting competition in the months leading to the election of the host city in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 7 September 2013."

Gerhard Heiberg, the head of the IOC's Marketing Commission, was also supportive of Rome's decision.

"I think it was, under the circumstances, a very wise decision for Italy," he told Reuters.

"The IOC regrets this because we would have liked Rome to bid but I understand very well the reasons for this.

"It is a purely Italian case."

But some leading IOC members claim that they believed Rome had missed a great opportunity.

"The decision of course must be respected but in my view the Italian Government missed the chance to send a signal for economic growth in Italy," Thomas Bach, the vice-president of the IOC, told Reuters.

"It is a pity that the obvious outstanding bid preparations will now be wasted.

"But the field of candidates remains strong."

Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are now the five contenders for the competition.

Tokyo and Doha both submitted their Applicant City files here on Monday, while Madrid and Baku did so yesterday.

Istanbul were the last city to do so when they handed in there Applicant City files this morning, with the deadline being later this evening.

Eyes will now invariably turn to Madrid due to the fact that Spain are also suffering badly in the current economic crisis.

Alejandro Blanco_15-02-12
However, unlike Rome, they have been heavily backed by the Government and Alejandro Blanco (pictured right), the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and head of the Madrid 2020 bid, feels the Games will actually help stimulate rather than harm the country's troubled economy.

"We have presented a bid file that reflects the strengths of our bid and we look towards the future with great optimism and motivation," Blanco told insidethegames here after submitting the Applicant City file.

"It is a solid and innovative project in many aspects, transport, environment, intelligent management of resources and finance, between others, that would leave a great legacy in our city.

"We consider that we really need the Games to give the young people the possibility of recovering opportunities they have lost over these past years.

"Also we can give a lot back to the Olympic world organising stable and sure Games with a sensible budget."

Heiberg is confident that they will not follow Rome and pull out.

"I think Spain has decided to go after the Games," he said.

"That is what I feel and I hope they will stay in the race."

The IOC is due to announce which cities have been shortlisted for Candidate City status at its Executive Board meeting in Quebec City on May 23, but it now appears increasingly likely that all five could go through because of Rome's withdrawal.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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