The chief organizer of the 2006 Turin Olympics is quitting in a power struggle with the Italian government, just 15 months before the start of the Winter Games.

Valentino Castellani, head of the organizing committee known as TOROC, said yesterday he will submit his resignation at a Nov. 24 board meeting.

Castellani said he was undermined by the government's nomination of Mario Pescante, culture ministry undersecretary and former head of the Italian Olympic Committee, as overall supervisor for the Feb. 10-26, 2006 Games.

Pescante's appointment was confirmed in a meeting in Rome on Wednesday.

"The powers given to Pescante . . . represent a lack of confidence in the work done here up until now, and above all, in the capacity to continue it," Castellani said in a statement.

TOROC has been sharply criticized for a $227 million budget shortfall and the Games have been hindered by a lack of public awareness and enthusiasm in Italy.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge met with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi last month to press the government to step up support for the Games and encourage state companies to sign up as sponsors.

The right-leaning government responded by naming Pescante as supervisor, a position that Castellani felt came into direct conflict with his own mandate.

"That's it. It's not worth trying to work this way anymore," said Castellani, a former left-leaning mayor of Turin.

-- From News Services