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Sailing in Sardinia and archery in the Vatican? Rome 2024 Olympic bid to reach beyond capital

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ROME — Sailing in Sardinia. Boxing in Florence. Basketball in Milan. Water polo in Naples.

And how about badminton or archery in St. Peter's Square?

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced Monday that Rome will propose a cost-conscious bid to host the 2024 Olympics that will take advantage of IOC President Thomas Bach's newly approved reforms allowing events to be held outside the host city.

The decision comes two years after Italy scrapped plans to bid for the 2020 Games because of financial concerns.

"The Italian government, together with CONI, is ready to do its part for a project that isn't based on great infrastructures or big dreams but rather great people," Premier Matteo Renzi said at Italian Olympic Committee headquarters. "We will be at the vanguard for all the spending controls."

Italy, which hosted the 1960 Olympics, launched a bid for the 2020 Games but dropped out after then-premier Mario Monti refused to provide financial backing at a time of economic crisis.

The new bid comes with Italy's economy still stagnant and amid a widening corruption scandal in Rome.

"Our country too often seems hesitant," Renzi said. "It's unacceptable not to try."

Rome is considering a budget of 6 billion euros ($7.5 billion) — $2 billion of which would be covered by the IOC — or roughly half of what London spent in 2012.

"I don't want to get into details but that's a fairly realistic number," CONI president Giovanni Malago said. "My dream is to have a bid supported with private money."

Italy is the second country to declare its intention to bid. Germany has already announced that it will submit a bid from either Berlin or Hamburg, with the choice to be made in March.

France is likely to approve a Paris bid next year, and the U.S. Olympic Committee will make a decision Tuesday on whether to bid. Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington are vying to be the U.S. candidate.

Other possible contenders include Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Baku, Azerbaijan; Istanbul, Turkey; Budapest, Hungary; and a city or province in South Africa.

The Rome bid is expected to include many of the venues used for the 1960 Games — notably the Foro Italico complex that includes the athletics and football stadium, plus swimming, diving and tennis facilities.

PHOTO: Italian Premier Matteo Renzi delivers his speech at Italian Olympic Committee headquarters in Rome, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Renzi says Rome will bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. He says "the Italian government, together with CONI, is ready for this project." The move comes with Italy's economy still stagnant and amid a widening corruption and mafia scandal in the capital. Italy planned to bid for the 2020 Olympics but the project was scrapped after then-premier Mario Monti refused to provide financial backing. The 2024 host will be chosen in 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi delivers his speech at Italian Olympic Committee headquarters in Rome, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Renzi says Rome will bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. He says "the Italian government, together with CONI, is ready for this project." The move comes with Italy's economy still stagnant and amid a widening corruption and mafia scandal in the capital. Italy planned to bid for the 2020 Olympics but the project was scrapped after then-premier Mario Monti refused to provide financial backing. The 2024 host will be chosen in 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The 2024 host will be chosen by the International Olympic Committee in 2017. The deadline for submission of bids to the IOC is September 2015.

Rome could also propose holding several events outside the capital, including preliminary basketball and volleyball competition in cities up and down the peninsula.

"The bid will obviously be centered on Rome," Renzi said. "But it will also involve Florence, Naples and Sardinia."

Under the IOC reforms passed last week in Monaco, host cities are encouraged to use existing and temporary venues. Events can be held outside the host city "or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country for reasons of geography and sustainability."

Italian news reports have taken that new loophole to mean the Vatican might even host events.

Archery at the Vatican would be the latest in a long line of unique venues for the sport.

During the 2004 Olympics, archery was held in the central Athens stadium used at the 1896 Games. In 2012, archery was contested at Lord's cricket ground in London. A samba area will host archery in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

"St. Peter's Square could fit right in — if the pope agrees," Francesco Ricci Bitti, the International Tennis Federation president who heads the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, told The Associated Press.

Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture — which runs the Vatican sport department — said CONI officials have a very good relationship with the office and have discussed the Olympic bid and other areas for collaboration.

"But no commitments have been made," he told The AP, adding that CONI would be at the Vatican on Friday for a Mass celebrating the committee's 100th anniversary.

Rome was the first to announce a bid for the 2020 Games but Monti said in February 2012 that the government would not provide the required financial guarantees. Two premiers later, Italy is still mired in recession and youth employment has topped 40 percent.

"We need to see what the people think," said three-time Olympic canoe champion Antonio Rossi, now a politician in the northern Lombardy region. "Let's not forget that 2 1/2 years ago the polls said 90 percent of Italians agreed with Monti's 'No.'"


Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield and Frances D'Emilio contributed.


Andrew Dampf can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

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PHOTO: Italian Premier Matteo Renzi delivers his speech at Italian Olympic Committee headquarters in Rome, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Renzi says Rome will bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. He says "the Italian government, together with CONI, is ready for this project." The move comes with Italy's economy still stagnant and amid a widening corruption and mafia scandal in the capital. Italy planned to bid for the 2020 Olympics but the project was scrapped after then-premier Mario Monti refused to provide financial backing. The 2024 host will be chosen in 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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