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Much in favor of Madrid 2020 bid as IOC prepare to vote on 2020 Olympic host

By Paul Giblin (Xinhua)    18:02, September 04, 2013
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The city of Madrid is crossing its fingers in the hope that the members of the International Olympic Committee decide on Saturday, September 7 that it is third time lucky and the Spanish capital will be elected as the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Madrid failed in its bid to host the 2012 and 2016 Olympics with the vote going to London and Rio de Janeiro, but despite the economic crisis in Spain the city decided to launch a third bid.

That was a decision which may have surprised many, especially given the economic crisis which has ravaged Spain leaving over 25 percent of the population out of work, but in some ways the crisis has given Madrid the chance to show a new way of organizing the Olympic Games and this model may be one of the bid's strong points.

Perhaps the greatest attraction of Madrid as a host city is that with some exceptions such as white water canoeing and shooting, the majority of the venues are already in place, with the city using existing sites and buildings to host many of the Olympic sports.

The IOC evaluation report highlights that 28 of the 35 required venues already exist with only four permanent venues needing to be built.

The emblematic bullring in Las Ventas will host basketball, or the Caja Magica: the venue of the annual Madrid Masters 1000 series tennis event, would repeat that function in 2020, while the Madrid Arena will host the handball and the Casa de Campo park provides the terrain for the Triathlon and the Mountain biking.

Meanwhile Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and the club's Alfredo De Stafano Stadium will host football, hockey and rugby.

Although the Olympic Stadium has yet to be finished, it is assured of providing a legacy given that Atletico Madrid football club will make it their new home ground, ensuring no danger of it turning into an expensive white elephant Spain cannot afford.

"Madrid is a realistic candidacy built in line with the times," Madrid 2020 Bid President Alejandro Blanco explained to Xinhua.

"You have to stop thinking that making the Games is building the best installations which have no use once the Games are over," he added.

Theresa Zabell who is the CEO of International Relations in the bid highlighted that the two previous bids mean that much recent city planning has been done with the Games in mind.

"That is a big advantage that we have as we have as much of our urban planning has been designed around the Games, rather than the other way around and that makes it an excellent technical project," explained Zabell, herself a double Olympic Gold medalist in 1992 and 1996.

The presence of so many venues means that Madrid already has a long experience of organizing major sporting events with recent years seeing the Champions League final, the World Handball Cup and the Masters Tennis Series among others.

"Over the past 10 years Madrid and Spain have been the city and country which have organized the most special events and that is a great reference for the Madrid candidacy," confirmed Blanco.

The city already has the hotel capacity needed for such an event and counts on a modern public transfer infrastructure which would hardly need adapting to the needs of the Olympics, while the venues are laid out to ensure that virtually no athletes would need to travel more than 20 minutes to reach their event.

Blanco himself may be a strong point of the Madrid bid: a former judoka, he has long been a steady hand at the helm of the Spanish Olympic Committee and his leadership has helped make the bid non-political, which counts on the support of the private sector and also of Spain's labor unions, who view the project as a route out of the economic crisis.

It has been calculated that should Madrid be chosen the decision would help generate 3.9486 billion euros in extra revenue for the city between 2020-2025, plus 5.8221 billion euros in economic output and 2.7647 billion euros in GVA.

That would lead to the creation of 85,000 permanent and many more temporary jobs, as well as raising the city's profile in a way similar to that experienced by Barcelona after the 1992 Olympics.

"Before 1992 around 700,000 tourists a year visited the city (Barcelona) and now it's almost 7 million, there are other factors, but much is down to the Games. Madrid is already on the map, but it raises your image massively," explained Zabell.

Given that boost, it is hardly surprising the Madrid 2020 bid counts on a high level of public support, with opinion polls pointing to 80 percent of Spaniards in favor of Madrid hosting the Olympic Games, with an even higher proportion of youngsters positive about the idea.

"Young people are very prepared, willing and capable and they think the Games can help them and that is the best message we can sent to the Olympic movement. The Games is not only for a few days... it is change a country's mentality, it is to push forward and give dynamic to a country," said Blanco and his faith has been reflected in the high number of people who have already registered as Games volunteers, with Real Madrid goalkeeper, Iker Casillas named as volunteer 60,000 at the start of the week.

In short Madrid has many positive factors: public support, venues, low cost, excellent communications and experience in organizing major sporting events. It also sits at a cultural crossroads between Europe, North Africa and Latin America, while Blanco's leadership has helped to lift it away from the risk of political squabbling and helped provide a focus of unity for all areas of society.

That is not to say there are no drawbacks to the bid and two major problems stand out: the economic crisis and recent corruption scandals.

Regarding the crisis, it has to be said that some Spaniards would rather see the money to be invested in the Games, invested elsewhere, despite the promised economic benefits of being the host city. Meanwhile the fact that the Spanish government, the EU and the International Monetary Fund have all had to lower their predictions for Spain's economic recovery, casts some doubts on the financial side of the bid.

Nevertheless, despite some misgivings over the ability to raise the predicted amount of sponsorship, the IOC Evaluation Commission report concludes: "the budget represents a reasonable estimate of the costs and revenues associated with hosting the Games and the Commission considers it to be achievable."

London organized an excellent Games in 2012, but will the IOC want to return to Europe just eight years later and to a 'Latin' country just four years after Brazil? This is something over which Spain has little control.

Finally, the issue of corruption which has seen members of the Spanish government, royal family and even the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy implicated in various scandals, cannot have helped Spain's image overseas but here again Blanco's role as the Bid President, is a positive factor.

"This candidacy is separate from the political world as we believe that sport is the most important thing.... It's true that nothing bad in the country helps the candidacy, but we are separate from this subject," he explained.

Madrid presents a bid which exists in concrete and bricks and mortar, not just on paper and public support, whether or not it has the support of the IOC will be discovered on Saturday.


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