Italy’s New Empire

With three major sports events in consecutive years on its wish-list, Elisha Chauhan looks at whether Italy is on the cusp of a new hosting era.

Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries in the economic crisis that swept Europe just over five years ago, its economy shrinking by around seven per cent from 2007 to 2011. Unsurprising, therefore that Rome’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games was cut short at the start of 2012, then Italian prime minister Mario Monti saying it would be irresponsible to use billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to underwrite bidding and hosting costs.

However, things could be about to change with current prime minister Matteo Renzi looking to major sports events to boost the country’s continuing economic recovery. In July 2013, a government report for the UK Trade and Investment department found that the 2012 London Olympic Games boosted the UK economy by £9.9 billion in the space of a year, and Vince Cable – secretary of state for business, innovation and skills – claims that the Games could result in a £40-billion benefit by 2020.

Spearheading the potential sporting line-up is, once again, the greatest multi-sport event on the planet, the summer Olympics. Pencilling Italy in to bid for the 2024 Games, the Italian national Olympic committee (CONI) declared it was backing Rome as a potential host, becoming the first city to express an official interest in bidding for the event in December.

I wouldn’t bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup if I wasn’t sure we could get a result

However, Italy isn’t stopping its ambition at the Olympics, and is looking to create a strong calendar of events leading up to a potential 2024 Games with bids to host the 2022 Ryder Cup and 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Italian Golf Federation (FIG) president Franco Chimenti says that a 2022 Ryder Cup in Italy, which would be held at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club just outside Rome, would be evidence of Italy’s comeback to the international sports scene and its potential hosting capabilities.

“Hosting the Ryder Cup in 2022 would be an honour to Italy, and a great showcase for the image of the country. It would create a positive economic impact for tourism, transportation and services, as well as increasing the media value of Italy and Rome as brands,” Chimenti told SportBusiness International.

“This opportunity has happened at the right time. Italy needs to believe in important and achievable projects, and hosting the Ryder Cup in 2022 might represent the first step to boosting the country and its credibility in organising high-profile sport events.”

Chimenti’s rugby union counterpart Alfredo Gavazzi also believes that the timing of 10th edition of the sport’s World Cup couldn’t be better. Though Italy has never hosted the event – it missed out on the hosting rights for both the 2015 and 2019 events to England and Japan respectively – it is looking to recreate Japan’s upcoming sporting calendar by hosting the tournament a year before the Olympic Games.

“I wouldn’t bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup if I wasn’t sure we could get a result,” Gavazzi told SportBusiness International. “Being in the European timezone will be an advantage as Europe continues to be the world’s main rugby TV market.

“The 2015 Rugby World Cup will see a generational turnover in the Italian national rugby team. In my first two years as FIR (Italian Rugby Federation) president, we thoroughly renewed the development process for our young and emerging players, as well as the structure of our academies. I always said that it will pay-back on a long-term basis and I’m confident Italy will be in the position to reach the knockout stages in 2023.”

Road to Recovery

Chimenti says the golf market in Italy “could have its pinnacle in 2022” if the country is awarded the Ryder Cup, adding that interest in the sport in the country is already on the rise, thanks in part to the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, the former of which is currently ranked 56th in the world.

The 2014 edition of the Italian Open, which is on the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) European Tour, saw a 16 per cent year-on-year domestic increase in TV viewership, and Chimenti says a successful Ryder Cup bid will attract the attention of international companies looking to invest in developing markets for the sport.

Edoardo Molinari – Getty Images Sport

Meanwhile, since competing in the Six Nations since 2000, Italian rugby union has grown in popularity year on year, and Italy already has some hosting pedigree in the sport, with the Junior World Championship returning this June after being hosted in the country in 2011.

The 2023 Rugby World Cup, says Gavazzi, “would be the logical result of what we have achieved in the recent past”.

“The CONI president Giovanni Malagò, with whom my relations are excellent, is a person of great standing. And even the Italian government, headed by Matteo Renzi, is showing a comforting interest towards sport,” he adds. “Surely three events like the Ryder Cup, Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games will have a beneficial effect on the economy of our country, generating employment and contributing to economic recovery. As an entrepreneur and as a sportsman I can’t be more enthusiastic.”

“By supporting the nomination of Italy for the 2024 Olympic Games, the Italian government has believed in sport as the engine of the national economy, instilling confidence and optimism for the future,” says Chimenti. “The Ryder Cup could be a way to achieve many national goals. Other than promoting the image of Italy and Rome to the world, the event would in fact bring a significant economic impact, a qualified tourism development and a growth of the golf movement.” 

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