In Italy the theme of the Olympic bid for 2024 has not massively hit the news so far. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city in September 2017 and the Games will be held in eight years. It still looks far away. Moreover, Paris and Los Angeles have been widely viewed as the front-runners, with perhaps a potential advantage for Paris, considering that Los Angeles joined the group of candidate cities at a later stage, after Boston dropped out last August. Rome’s candidacy is only just starting to gain momentum. The Italian capital previously hosted the Games in 1960. Budapest is at the moment the fourth remaining city in the running.
The presentation ceremony of Rome’s candidacy was held on February 17, the same day the initial bid dossier was submitted to the IOC. The ceremony was broadcast live at 10:30am on national television. It was an occasion for the press to remind the public opinion that yes, Rome too is one of the candidate cities for the Olympics! The broader media coverage was all but imposing but one thing was clear to those who followed the news: Rome’s historic monuments are at the core of the city’s bid to stage the 2024 Olympics. Preliminary venue plans call for beach volleyball at the Circus Maximus and a nightly parade of athletes at the Colosseum. That is indeed a winning argument. In 2014 Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty won the best foreign language film Oscar, along with a wealth of best cinematography awards. The film, which was set in Rome, is a feast for the senses, with its breathtaking images of the Eternal City, even if Rome itself is “just” in the background. The plot primarily focuses on cultural and political exhaustion through the stories of a group of decadent characters and their sense of unfulfillment.
Besides its artistic merits, this movie is a good metaphor of the way Italians see themselves, and tells us something about why Rome’s candidacy is gradually and yet steadily emerging, without too much noise. An estimated 60 percent of the entire world’s art treasures are found in Italy. Italians were born amid beauty and almost take it for granted. Like in the movie, it is in the background, while far from assuming that this is their ultimate winning card and overplaying it, they look a lot at their limits. Italians hardly ever assume in advance they will win. This is not necessarily the best strategy to emerge, one might say, but rivals – in this case the other candidate cities for the 2024 Games – should better be careful and avoid mistaking self-mockery for weakness.
Rome has been filling the news for reasons other than the Olympic bid, as a series of scandals have rocked the political life of Italy’s capital city in recent months. The so-called “Mafia Capitale” corruption affair, the premature resignation of the city’s Mayor, Ignazio Marino, and the “Vatileaks” revelations just a few days before the start of the Pope’s special jubilee celebrations, have created an unprecedented situation, providing the news media with plenty of urgent subjects to deal with.
Italy won the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain right after the outbreak of a major scandal in Serie A over match fixing and illegal betting. The Azzurri, loudly criticized by the media, decided on a press black-out, with only the coach and the captain appointed to speak to the press. In the end, Italy won the tournament. Italy’s campaign in the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Germany, started just a couple of months after the eruption of Calciopoli, a new match-fixing scandal implicating some top teams in Serie A and Serie B. Amid general pessimism and all sorts of negative predictions, the Azzurri eventually triumphed in Berlin and won their fourth World Cup.
With regard to the bid for the 2024 Olympics, we do not know what the pick will be. History has proven that early favourites sometimes win and sometimes do not. In any case, history has also shown that Italy often emerges as a more serious contender than its rivals had anticipated.
The media coverage that the Rome’s bid has received thus far is consistent with the hierarchy of the news, in this particular phase of the city’s history, and a certain wisdom in not promoting a victory that is yet to be achieved. This relatively low profile should not mislead the other contenders, as Italy’s strengths and Rome’s beauties are well in the background, ready to surface in due course.
Scientific Advisor on the News Media