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Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi rejects city’s 2024 Olympic bid

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ROME (AP) — Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics on Wednesday, effectively dooming the capital’s candidacy for the second time in four years.

If approved by the city assembly, Raggi’s rejection would leave only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide on the host city in September 2017.

At a news conference in city hall, Raggi said it would be financially “irresponsible” to pursue the bid any further given the city is barely able to get its trash picked up. She also noted the debts that previous Olympic host cities have incurred.

“In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable. They will bring only debt,” Raggi said.

Raggi drew up a motion to withdraw the bid and put it before the city assembly Wednesday.

“It will be the city assembly, the sovereign body and democratically elected organ, that will express its position,” Raggi said. “We have illustrated our political position today. If it’s accepted by the assembly we’ll deal with the ensuing consequences (to formalize it.)”

Raggi had been scheduled to meet with Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago before going public with her decision. But 45 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to begin, Malago and the rest of the delegation left city hall saying Raggi hadn’t shown up. Malago was planning a news conference later at CONI headquarters.

Raggi, who was elected in June representing the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, campaigned with the message that an Olympic bid was unsustainable for a city struggling to emerge from years of corruption and poor public services. She said she was merely being consistent with her campaign position.

Her rejection marks Rome’s second withdrawal in four years after then-Premier Mario Monti stopped the city’s plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial problems.

The Rome bid was approved by the city assembly last year with 38 votes in favor and only six against – meaning Raggi may have to put the issue up for another vote to officially end the candidacy.

The IOC requires bidders to have support from the government and city.

Previous Mayor Ignazio Marino, who was forced out over an expense account scandal, had supported the bid. And Premier Matteo Renzi has been a big fan of the candidacy since he helped launch it in 2014. He has said the bid would be doomed if Rome’s mayor doesn’t support it.

A budget of 24 million euros ($27 million) has already been allotted – much of it spent – to the bid committee, even though candidacy head Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has no salary.

The bid is slated to be centered around Rome’s historic monuments: a cycling sprint alongside the Roman Forum, beach volleyball at the Circus Maximus and the marathon passing through St. Peter’s Square and finishing under the Arch of Constantine. Plus, a nightly parade of athletes at the Colosseum.

Relying on many venues that were used for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the candidacy proposes using existing structures for 70 percent of the required sites. The budget is projected at 5.3 billion euros ($6 billion) – 2.1 billion euros for the construction of permanent venues and the balance for temporary venues.

The bid is based on three clusters: the existing Stadio Olimpico and surrounding Foro Italico complex for athletics and swimming; the Fiera convention center near the airport for indoor sports; and an athletes village and multi-sports arena at the Tor Vergata University on the city’s outskirts.

A withdrawal would be another clear signal that the IOC still has a lot of work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden.

Voters in Hamburg rejected the German city’s 2024 bid in a referendum. Boston also dropped out last year amid a lack of public and political support and was replaced by Los Angeles.

It could also be another stinging blow for the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” program, which was designed to make bidding for and hosting the games more flexible and more affordable.

The reforms were aimed at avoiding a repeat of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, which was depleted by the withdrawal of four cities – Stockholm; Oslo; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland – for political or financial reasons. Many politicians and taxpayers were scared off by the billions spent by Russia on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Planned 2022 bids by Munich and St. Moritz-Davos in Switzerland were dropped earlier. With only two final contenders for 2022, Beijing defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the IOC vote last year.

Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer who is Rome’s first female mayor, said during her candidacy that the city needed to focus on ordinary issues before it should consider “extraordinary events” like the Olympics.

Raggi has had a rough start since taking office, with her administration falling into disarray over a spate of resignations and judicial inquiries.

During her campaign, Raggi promised to fix Rome’s transport, garbage and corruption scandals.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding news

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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