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March 19, 2013

Madrid visited by IOC as part of 2020 Olympic bid process

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Merchandising for the Madrid 2020 bid
Image: Donperfectodewiki.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission is in Madrid, Spain this week as part of the city’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Sir Craig Reedie of Great Britain is leading the IOC delegation who were greeted by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy at the start of their inspection process. Of the fourteen member bid delegation, five have been through this process before as part of the city’s failed bids for the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics bids.

Buen Retiro park in Madrid
Image: Onanymous.

On a cold but sunny day yesterday, four sites were visited by the IOC on their first inspection date including Real Madrid‘s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Buen Retiro park and bullfighting ring Las Ventas. Today, the IOC is scheduled to visit the proposed venues for the Olympic village and stadium. The inspection is scheduled to last four days.

Inside of Santiago Bernabeu
Image: Chris Brown.

While at Santiago Bernabéu, IOC members met the Spanish national football team captain Iker Casillas and were given Real Madrid jersey’s with their names printed on the back.

As Spain is currently undergoing severe economic problems at the moment, with unemployment that currently stands at 26% and public debt in 2012 at 84% of the country’s gross domestic product, the €1.5bn (USD$1.961bn, £1.297bn) costs of the Games have been a highly visible aspect of the city’s bid process. Security costs are estimated to add another €148m (USD$192m, £127m) to organizing costs. Proponents of the bid, including Madrid’s mayor Ana Botella, believe the Games would provide an economic boost to the city and the county. IOC President Jacques Rogge is also on the record as stating that he does not believe Spanish economic problems will play a part in the IOC’s decision making process. On Sunday, Rogge was quoted by Spanish newspaper El Mundo as saying, “The crisis does not affect it, because substantial facilities have in most cases already been built. No major investment is needed.”

Botella outlined some of the costs, and is quoted by the Associated Press as saying during the IOC visit as saying, “The budget that remains for the construction of infrastructure, some (euro) 1.5 billion divided between the three administrations responsible and over a period of seven years, is a perfectly affordable amount.”

Local organizers have promised to follow the legacy of London, using utilizing historical landmarks and existing venues with 80%, 28 of the proposed 35 venues, of them already in place, and providing a roadmap for future development of Olympic sites to avoid any white elephants that are unused after the Games, a situation that happened with a number of Athens Olympic venues. Madrid’s bid Chief Executive Victor Sánchez is quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying, “Projects that have no real use for citizens after the Games have finished. That is why we have given priority to existing infrastructures and then to other infrastructures that the city has a direct need for. Finally, where a future use cannot be guaranteed, we have opted for temporary solutions. Only three such temporary solutions will be used, while a mere four permanent facilities remain to be built. The result is lower costs, reduced environmental impact and less disruption to the everyday lives of the people of Madrid, all with government backing at central, regional and municipal level.”

Local organizers are preparing to contend with protesters trying to draw attention to Spain’s labor situation who planned to picket outside the Hotel Eurostars Madrid Tower where IOC members are staying. The planned protest is over cuts to the Municipal Government budget. Protesters did not picket yesterday because it was a holiday in Madrid. Bid organizers and the government feared potential strikes by people working for the public transport system. Botella explained to the media that protests and work stoppages should not be seen as evidence that Spaniards would not welcome the Games but over unhappiness with local economic issues, which Botella said the Games should help fix. Spain’s current unemployment level is the highest of any European country and the worst the country has faced since the 1970s. Botella’s view is supported by an IOC survey, which found 81% of Spaniards supported Madrid’s bid for the Games.

Madrid is one of three cities currently competing for the 2020 Games. The IOC visited Tokyo, Japan earlier this month and is scheduled to visit Istanbul, Turkey later this month. The host city will be formally selected at a meeting of the IOC on September 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shortly after that, Rogge is scheduled to step down from his position as IOC President.

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