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Intellectuals crusade against games

February 7, 1997

ROME (AP) _ Hoping to catch the attention of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, a group dominated by environmentalists and intellectuals launched on Friday a campaign against Rome’s candidacy to host the 2004 Summer Olympics.

``We’re here because Rome is unsuitable for the Olympics,″ Massimo Teodori, a historian and former deputy said during a news conference. ``The city is not prepared for an event that would bring millions of people into such a restricted space.″

Rome; Athens, Greece; Stockholm, Sweden, and Cape Town, South Africa are the leading contenders for 2004. The 11 cities vying for the games will be pared to four or five in March, with the winner selected in September.

The Italian government has pledged nearly $2 billion for sports facilities and accommodations for teams and reporters if the city gets the bid. Teodori insists the money could be well spent on Rome’s chronic problems. He refused to say just what, but the capital has long suffered from traffic and housing problems.

The group sent a letter to Samaranch on Friday, seeking an audience with the IOC to ``show that Rome’s bid is based on false or misleading information″ about transportation, visitor accommodations and popular support for the bid.

The ``No to the Olympics in Rome″ coalition called for a public referendum.

Raffaele Ranucci, the head of Rome’s bid committee, brushed off the opposition. ``If we don’t get the games it won’t be because of this group. It will be because there’s a stronger city,″ he said.

Rome’s mayor, Francesco Rutelli, has been vigorously campaigning for the games. Rome is already in the midst of an improvement program to be ready for the millions of pilgrims expected for Holy Year and millennium celebrations in 2000.

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