Madrid Makes Strong Case for 2020 Olympics

Madrid have momentum in tight 2020 Olympics race
by AFP 7/5/2013
Madrid may not have quite landed the killer blow Rio de Janeiro did four years ago in the race to host the 2016 Olympic Games, but the Spanish bid team will leave Lausanne having convinced many they can be entrusted with the 2020 Summer Games.

Their technical presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members - who will vote on the host city in Buenos Aires on September 7 - received universal praise.

Neither Istanbul, running their most impressive bid after four previous failures, nor Tokyo, the only one of the three to have previously hosted the Games in 1964, performed disastrously and remain in contention but it was Madrid that has the momentum.

The general consensus was Madrid had done more to help their chances of winning and for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy - who flew to Lausanne to meet with IOC president Jacques Rogge after attending a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday - the crucial question of the economy has now been laid to rest.

"Spain and Europe in general are going through difficult times in 2013 but next year the Spanish economy and unemployment will improve and I say this as the Spanish Prime Minister," the 58-year-old said on Thursday.

"It is not just, however, me saying this. It is also the OECD, the IMF and European Commission indexes that the Spanish economy will be back on track in 2014/15.

"Doubts about the economy do not exist anymore."

His finance minister Luis de Guindos also produced the type of fighting talk that will have left a good impression.

"As in the past Spain has overcome crises and been stronger for it so we will now," he said.

The question now for Madrid, though, is having produced the Crown Prince Felipe, the heir to the throne and who was described as the star of the show, and then the prime minister, is to maintain the momentum.

However, judging by remarks from their International Chief Executive and two-time Olympic yachting gold medalist Theresa Zabell, Madrid will not be taking their eye off the prize after coming third for 2012 and second for the 2016 edition.

"As an athlete I timed my training to be in peak condition for when I reached competition and this is exactly the same tactic," said the 48-year-old.

For Istanbul and Tokyo there is ground to be made up.

Several IOC members spoke of the enormous passion that shone through Istanbul's presentation, and in Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who is responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, they had an assured performer with the qualities necessary to woo the members.

However, despite impressive growth figures and a vibrant economy some members could hesitate to entrust a second successive Summer Games to another rising power, but which is still in the process of developing.

IOC presidential candidate Richard Carrion, while not specifically highlighting Istanbul, said that worldwide demands for more accountability from their governments should be taken into account especially in mind of recent events in Brazil.

People there protested against rampant corruption and the billions of dollars invested in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro rather than in health, education and public transport.

"We are living in an age of great economic pressures, an age dictated by austerity," the 60-year-old Puerto Rican told AFP on Tuesday.

"As a result there is less money for investment in sports projects. We would have to be tone deaf to not hear what the people on the streets are saying.

Tokyo has perhaps the most to do after producing what many said was a flat presentation.

Having long been considered the front runner, as there is no doubt in anyone's minds they could host the Games, it appears they are yet to convince the members why deep down they really want them.

"They lacked passion and feeling in their presentation, they need to really come out fighting in the final presentation in Buenos Aires and tug on people's emotions as to what it means to them," said one member under condition of anonymity.

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