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Paris is Rome’s main rival for 2024 Olympics, Italian Premier says

Matteo Renzi

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 01: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi speaks during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street on April 1, 2014 in London, England. Mr Renzi is making his first official visit to the UK since coming to power on February 22, 2014. (Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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ROME (AP) -- Forget Los Angeles and Budapest. Italy believes Paris is Rome’s main rival for the 2024 Olympics.

“We will win the Olympics,” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said Tuesday. “I say we can do it. We know the rival is Paris, but I believe in us. I think all the conditions are in place to do it.”

As well as Paris, Rome is competing against Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary, for the games.

The German port city of Hamburg withdrew its 2024 bid last month after it was defeated in a referendum. Boston dropped out in August amid a lack of public and political support, and was replaced by Los Angeles.

The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September 2017.

Paris and Los Angeles have been viewed as the early favorites. But Renzi was bullish on his city’s chances.

“We haven’t won anything yet but some of our rivals have already pulled out,” he said at a sports awards ceremony. “Last year the problem was Boston and now it’s not there anymore.”

Rome is trying to bring the Olympics back to the Italian capital for the first time since 1960. Rome withdrew its bid for the 2020 Olympics after the government of then Premier Mario Monti declined to provide financial backing.

But Renzi is fully behind the 2024 effort.

“We’re going to play this match on all levels,” Renzi said. “We really want to win. If we don’t however, we will still have restored important plans to this sector. If we all do our part together the Olympics will be valuable for the country and the Italians as well as for the sport.”

Renzi spoke on the same day that IOC President Thomas Bach was visiting Budapest to take part in the 120th anniversary celebrations of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. Bach described Budapest, which has been seen as the outsider in the race, as a “strong contender,” the IOC said.

Renzi also said that sport should serve as a vehicle against the fear of terrorism, following the recent attacks in Paris that claimed 130 lives.

“Italy does not want to resign itself to be shut up at home due to fear,” Renzi said. “It wants to live with joy and sport is a way to say no to fear.”

Also present at the awards ceremony were Rome bid chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Italian Olympic Committee chief Giovanni Malago, who said the premier’s support “was fundamental” to Rome’s candidacy.

“We’re expecting the premier to give us support on all his international duties, as he is doing.” Montezemolo said. “We need to believe in ourselves and know that Rome can win this challenge. We are capable of winning these Olympics.”

MORE: Complete 2024 Olympic bidding coverage