Milan Expo site to become sports center after 2015

(By Emily Backus)

(ANSA) - Milan, March 21 - The governor of Lombardy this week asked the head of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) to propose a special sports enclave for the site of Milan Expo 2015, to be built after the conclusion of the food-themed world fair next year.

"Today marks the first step for the post-Expo future," said Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni.

The theme of Milan Expo 2015 is "Feeding the planet - Energy for life".

It tackles issues such as food security, hunger, and promotes environmentally, socially, economically sustainable global food production practices.

A total of 145 countries and organizations are participating in the Universal Exposition, which takes place next year from May 31 to October 31 in an area of more than 100 hectares near Milan's massive Rho Pero trade fair exhibition centre.

Maroni asked CONI President Giovanni Malagò to come up with a proposal for a "sports citadel" after the world fair is dismantled, speaking at the Ex(s)port 2015 conference in Milan on sports initiatives to support Milan Expo 2015.

"I asked Malagò for a hand. He should tell us what facilities CONI would like to have, and we will then find the resources. For this good project, we will find them," Maroni said.

"I would like for the sports citadel to become not only an Italian point of excellence, but also a European one," Maroni added.

Malagò already has in mind a new generation, Olympic-sized swimming pool and an indoor sports arena.

"You don't need a rocket scientist to understand that Milan needs a new generation Olympic swimming pool, which it doesn't have today," Malagò said at the margins of the conference.

"And then a sports palace is also needed," Malagò continued, adding that the arena would help reinforce sports traditions in Milan like ice-skating, and could support efforts like "Armani's adventure in basketball".

Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani has owned and helmed Milan's Olimpia pro-basketball team since he took control of it in the 2008-2009 period.

Malagò floated the idea of building a multi-sport arena that could host professional soccer matches as well, given interest expressed by one of Milan's two professional football teams, A.C. Milan.

Malagò said such a move could also benefit other sports like volleyball and hockey.

"We all have put our faces forward, and if Expo doesn't go well, Italy can not vie for the Olympics," as that would raise questions of credibility, Malagò said.

Malagò also called Expo 2015 commissioner Giuseppe Sala "a serious person who is doing everything possible for a race against time" to the Expo.

"I am rooting for teamwork to make a contribution to sports and society on the site once Expo has terminated," Malagò said.

Malagò underlined his desire to help city government and the region "to be able to give life to a structure that allows activities that until now have not been possible to carry out".

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