ROME (AP) — The marathon route winding through St. Peter’s Square and finishing under the Arch of Constantine in front of the Colosseum. A medals plaza set up inside the Baths of Caracalla. Beach volleyball played at the Circus Maximus.
Since Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics last year, the details have been something of a mystery.
But, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, bid chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo revealed a list of “iconic venues” that will take full advantage of Rome’s historic settings and Italy’s television-friendly backdrops.
Among other plans, cyclists could finish the road race with a sprint on the majestic Via dei Fori Imperiali and sailing would take place off Sardinia, Sicily or the Amalfi coast. The marathon route would run alongside Rome’s synagogue and mosque to promote interfaith peace.
“With television today, to have the possibility to put together the sport, the emotion, with the (surroundings) is fantastic,” said Montezemolo, the former Ferrari president and current Alitalia chairman.
The center of the bid project is the Foro Italico, which features the Stadio Olimpico used for the 1960 Games with an adjacent aquatics venue.
“We can do the opening ceremony and the athletics tonight,” Montezemolo said. “(We’re) ready. Swimming tonight. … Seventy percent of the venues are existing.”
Another main area will be at Tor Vergata, a university zone on Rome’s ring road that would be used for the athletes village, basketball, volleyball and perhaps the velodrome.
Gymnastics, boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo and some other sports would be held at the Fiera convention center near the main airport
With Tor Vergata currently in a state of abandonment. Montezemolo wants the athletes village to be turned into university housing and a hospital after the games.
“I don’t want to present a town that puts in the window only history and (the) past,” he said.
A drawback might be the distance — 33 kilometers (20 miles) — from Tor Vergata to the Foro Italico. That could impact athletics and swimming competitors who often return to the village between morning heats and evening finals.
Rome would like to host the games in August (sometime between Aug. 5-25) when the locals go on vacation — so traffic might not be as much of a problem as usual.
“It could be 40 minutes without traffic,” Montezemolo said.
One of the biggest challenges to Rome’s bid remains concern over corruption in construction contracts.
Dozens of suspects have been ordered to stand trial in November for a widening corruption scandal in Rome labeled “Mafia Capital.” Phone conversations intercepted by police and published in the media described how local criminal bosses managed to cement ties with city politicians over lucrative public contracts.
“I don’t accept that it’s automatic to do a big event together with corruption,” Montezemolo said.
At a flashy funeral send-off for a reputed mafia chieftain last month, there was a gilded horse-drawn carriage and “Godfather” theme music.
“I was astonished,” Montezemolo said of Vittorio Casamonica‘s funeral. “If this happened, it means that somebody did not (police) enough.”
With “Mafia Capital” in mind, Montezemolo is appointing Renzi’s anti-corruption czar Raffaele Cantone to a place on the bid team, and he’s also naming a handful of prominent judicial figures to oversee the contracts process.
“This is the best way to clean,” said Montezemolo, who is running the bid committee without a salary. “This is the process. For many years that was not the process.”
In line with the IOC’s new cost-cutting agenda, Rome is also promoting a thrifty bid.
Plans call for a games budget of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) — or roughly half of what London spent in 2012
The bid budget is 10 million euros ($11 million) — a fraction of the 60 million euros ($65 million) that rival Paris is spending. Los Angeles — the other main contender — raised $35 million in a single week for its bid campaign.
The other bidders are Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in 2017.
Rome hasn’t launched a website yet — although that’s in the works.
Having witnessed Boston’s withdrawal from the race after a public backlash, Rome is being extra careful.
“I prefer to announce when things are confirmed,” Montezemolo said. “It’s very easy to say we will do soccer in the Colosseum and maybe swimming in the Tiber. But that is not realistic.”
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