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The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) announced yesterday that it was withdrawing its bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. This leaves Ireland, France, and South Africa as the remaining countries seeking to host the tournament.
The Italian withdrawal did not come as a surprise since Rome had also retracted its bid for the 2024 Olympics. Many perceived that both proffers were linked together, and if one exited, it would impact the other.
The background behind the Olympic decision stems from the selection of the new Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, elected on the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. She called the Olympic tender “Irresponsible. Unsustainable. Unaffordable.” She also projected the event would bury Italy and Rome under a ton of debt. Three cities are still in the 2024 Olympic running: Los Angeles (bid after Boston dropped out), Paris, and Budapest. The IOC will decide September 2017.
Italy would have offered multi-stadium, big city venues, possibly scheduling initial round events in Milan, Turin, Bologna, etc., which all featured sizable soccer football stadiums. When the All-Blacks toured in October 2009, the 80,000 San Siro Stadium, home to A.C. Milan and Inter, sold out in an hour. The final would have been in Rome, which anticipates a new rugby dedicated facility soon. (NB: The FIR is headquartered in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.)
France hosted the RWC in 2007 in what was then, the most successful tournament in terms of attendance and television coverage. England 2015 RWC surpassed the 2007 results.
The Irish, host to next year’s Women’s RWC in late August, must run a seamless event to demonstrate to World Rugby (headquartered in Dublin) it has the infrastructure and the means to accommodate RWC rugby fans for three-weeks.