Op-ed: Back to Basics. No 2020 Olympic Games for Rome, But a ‘Brand New’ Colosseum

Op-ed: Back to Basics. No 2020 Olympic Games for Rome, But a ‘Brand New’ Colosseum

This week has marked a very important turning point for the future of tourism in Rome.

Italy’s capital will not host the 2020 Olympic Games, has started the season of corporate-sponsored restoration of monuments and archeological landmarks, and has been confirmed as one of the cultural capitals of the world.


This blog was born and conceived with the idea that Rome was not only Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain – the usual 3-day itinerary of tourists visiting Rome for the first time.

We thought this city has much, much more to offer and that it was a shame that we could only attract half the number of visitors flocking to Paris or London.

We somehow developed a two-key strategy to show that Rome is different from how it is normally seen by the 3-day tourists: highlight all the other major cultural events – arts & photo exhibits, shows, festivals – and talk about entertainment occasions that have nothing to do with culture, such as sport events, shopping, theme parks, sea/coast-related happenings etc…


Rome is not the capital of rich and powerful and well organized states like the UK and France nor is by far the most important city of her country as is the case of Paris for France and London for Britain, but still has a remarkable offer of style, talent and creativity that goes well beyond the well known monuments, churches and museums of the past.


The best way to boost this “second soul” of the city, the most modern and entertaining one, was to take advantage of a huge event like the Olympic games. Rome’s bid for the 2020 edition would have been a winning one if the Italian Government had given it financial support. We don’t want to annoy you with Italian politics and public finance problems here and will skip the reasons why Monti decided not to support Rome’s bid.


But this city badly needs infrastructures and new facilities if it wants to be in competition with Paris and London. The money is not there unless you get it from the Olympiads and the likes. But for many years at least there will be no such an opportunity as the 2020 games. What will we do then?


Luckily, this week also saw an important sentence by a High Administrative Court stating that the long-overdue restoration of the Colosseum (even the snow damaged it!) can be done with private capital in exchange of the use of the amphitheatre’s image for commercial purposes. In a cash-strapped city (and country) like ours, this is a very positive development and may start a new season of corporate-sponsored restorations.


Thirdly, the travel portal Zoover just awarded Rome with the European Citytrip Award 2011, mainly for her cultural offer.


These three facts, one after the other, will change the route of tourism in Rome. We are back to our old tradition of art, archeology and religion visits. We tried and this city government also devised a multi-pronged and visionary strategy for a Second District of Tourism (see their website Secondo Polo Turistico Roma) made of golf, sailing, yachts, conferences, an aquarium, theme parks, shopping malls, etc mostly in the southern part of Rome, the most modern one and the nearest to the coast.


But it seems that Rome is inevitably associated with, and only with, our past, our relics, our Church. And what is the next step, if there is any? A religious one: Rome will host the 2025 Catholic Jubilee that will attract millions of pilgrims: low-key, low-spending travellers.


We will not just stop and see what’s going on around St.Peter’s and the Roman Forum. We will continue to try to convey the vibrant cultural life, the contemporay and modern events of this capital, the talent and the skills of her young and emerging artists.

We are confident that Rome is gradually, albeit slowly, going into the direction of Paris and London and doesn’t desperately need another big event, like the Olympic Games.


This week also marked a big change in the tax policies of this country. The Catholic Church’s assets also used for commercial purposes will start paying the Italian equivalent of the city council tax. Rome teems with religious residences, hotels and guest-houses. We hope their money will be used to promote the so called “second soul” of this city, the one that can best attract people from emerging countries, those who are less interested in Western culture, religion and arts but who would visit Rome if the city offers a very diversified range of sights and activities, during the day and at night.


According to the latest 2011 tourism figures, visitors from these countries rose the most last year: Brasil (+17%), Russia (+16%), Poland (+15%) and China (+13%). That is the way to go!


This is the curtain raiser we wrote before the Italian government’s final decision on the Rome bid for 2020.

For other considerations on the tourism business in Rome read here.