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September, 26, 2016

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Rome mayor rejects city's 2024 Olympic bid

ROME--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 Rome's city assembly, Raggi's motion to withdraw the bid 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 highlighted the debts that previous Olympic host cities have incurred and the unfinished infrastructure already dotting Rome from previous sporting bids as reasons to justify the withdrawal.

"In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable. They will bring only debt," she said. "We don't want sports to become another pretext for more cement foundations in the city. We won't allow it."

Raggi drew up a motion to withdraw the bid Wednesday and put it before the city assembly, which has the final say. There was no immediate word if and when the council would take it up.

Raggi had been scheduled to meet with Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago before going public with her decision. But about 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.

Raggi said she was just running late. But Malago bitterly complained about what he called Raggi's "disrespect" and ignorance of the bidding process and costs. He urged her not to put the motion to the assembly.

"Don't talk about things you know nothing about," he told a news conference at the headquarters of the national Olympic body.

Malago said the committee would continue working on the bid in the absence of a formal vote, noting the next dossier must be submitted to the IOC on Oct. 7.

"If there's no formal act, we can continue," he said. "They can't just declare it in a news conference."

Indeed, rival cities weren't ready to count Rome out altogether.

"There is no confirmation that Rome has departed from the 2024 race and as such it is not appropriate for us to offer any comment except to wish our Italian colleagues well during this period of difficult time," the Budapest Olympic committee said.

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.

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Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi shows the cover of a study conducted by Oxford University during a press conference, after she did not show up at a scheduled meeting with a delegation of the Italian Olympic Committee, in Rome, Wednesday, Sept. 21. (AP)

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