Crisis-hit Madrid defends 2020 Olympic bid

Christophe Lehousse | AFP

Published — Wednesday 9 January 2013

Last update 9 January 2013 1:08 am

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MADRID: Spain on Tuesday defended a 1.7-billion-euro ($2.2-billion) bid to host the Olympics in Madrid in 2020 even as the country battles a recession and high unemployment while slashing spending.
Spain’s delegation submitted the 360-page bid document to the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday.
If Madrid beats favorites Tokyo and rival Istanbul, it estimates it would have to invest another 1.7 billion euros to complete the infrastructure for the games.
The budget is “austere and responsible,” Education, Culture and Sports Minister Jose Ignacio Wert told a news conference in Madrid.
“With austerity as the rule, I have no doubt the returns will be positive,” he said.
Wert insisted, too, that Spain’s record in cracking down on doping in sports would not harm its bid.
“The effort Spain is making in the anti-doping battle must be recognized,” the sports minister said.
The World Anti-Doping Agency on December 21 suspended a Madrid anti-doping laboratory for an alleged error in handling a test, which led to the result being invalidated.
“This is not about a manipulation or ill intent. It is a technical problem about which the Spanish agency did not even have to make a statement — nevertheless it did,” he said.
Wert was asked, too, about a trial due to open this month over a doping network focused on cyclists that was broken up by police in 2006. No suspect targeted in the police operation, known as Operation Puerto, has yet faced a criminal court.
“The level of commitment of the Spanish anti-doping agency is without a blemish and Spain is in line with international organizations in doping matters,” the minister said.
Madrid will find out in September this year whether it has been chosen to host the Games, after finishing third for the 2012 and second for the 2016 editions.
Bid promoters, including Alejandro Blanco, head of the Spanish Olympic Committee, stressed that 28 of the 35 venues have already been built.
Of the seven remaining venues, only four including the Olympic Stadium would be permanent, requiring bigger investments than the other three temporary constructions.
Asked whether it was a good idea to be committing Spain to such spending when the state is cutting health and education budgets, Madrid regional government chief Ignacio Gonzalez said much of the investment would be financed by public-private partnerships.
Squeezed by a recession that began in mid-2011 and by an unemployment rate that has shot to 25 percent, Spain’s authorities say they believe the Games can create jobs and lure tourists.
The bid team touted the 2012 London Games as an example of the economic benefits of being a host city.
According to Gonzalez, the London Games created 50,000 jobs, of which tens of thousands were permanent.
Madrid city mayor Ana Botella was part of the delegation in Lausanne the previous day.
“It is a project the whole country is behind and a dream for all Spaniards,” she said.
“The proof can be seen in the fact that three levels of government are represented here — the city, the regional and the national.
“We are here to give our support to the countless people who are working for and believe in Madrid’s Olympic aspirations.”

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