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Gianni Petrucci © Gallo Images

CONI chief wants less red tape for new Italians

Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Gianni Petrucci wants the country's strict rules governing the naturalisation of foreign athletes relaxed.

Italian bureaucracy is said to be among the most stringent in Europe.

But Petrucci believes it's time for Italy to relax rules to allow the 'squadra azzurra' to play on the same playing field as the likes of France, Britain and Australia.

"In Australia, foreign athletes can compete for their country the day after receiving their residency documents," Petrucci said at a prize-giving ceremony for the military athletes, some of whom were born outside the country, who competed for Italy at the Olympic Games in London.

In the comments, reported by ANSA, he added: "I would really like it to be the same in Italy."

In relation to Britain and France, Italy has traditionally experienced less immigration, a fact which is perhaps down to its past as a comparative bit-part player on the colonial stage.

In London, only two naturalised Italian athletes made their multiple Olympic appearances as individuals.

Josefa Idem, 47, became the oldest Italian Olympian after competing in the sprint kayak having appeared twice before for West Germany.

Archer Natalia Valeeva was competing at her sixth Olympics as an individual having previously competed for the Unified Team and her native Moldova.

Petrucci, however, believes that on multi-ethnic terms Italy is becoming "more like Britain" – to the extent he has recently raised the issue with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano.

He did not say what the president's response was.

But in spite of their relative lack of foreign-born athletes, the CONI president was happy to note that Italy's Olympic medal tally of 24, including eight gold, was better than Australia's haul which included seven gold among 35.

He added: "Despite us being a bit behind, we still finished ahead of Australia."


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