POSTED: November 1st 2012

Madrid still optimistic for 2020 despite Spain's crippling economic crisis

Double gold medal Olympian sailor Theresa Zabell / Madrid 2020
Double gold medal Olympian sailor Theresa Zabell / Madrid 2020

JOHN GOODBODY / Sports Features Communications

November 1 - The Madrid bid team is adamant. The Spanish capital should continue to bid for the 2020 Olympics despite the financial crisis afflicting the country. With the Government announcing spending cuts and tax rises of 52 billion dollars in the 2013 budget, and with 52.9 percent of the Spanish youth without work, the worst figures in Europe in August, one would have thought that the country would not have wanted the additional financial burden of hosting the Games.

Not so, says Theresa Zabell, a leading official in the Madrid bid. She points to several reasons why it should continue its candidature against its rivals, Tokyo and Istanbul. She says: ”First, there are reasons for economic optimism. Then, hosting the Games will generate employment among the young, who do not deserve the suffering they are undergoing.

“Third, the lion’s part of our investment and infrastructure has already been done. And we need to profit from that investment that we have made. There is also the optimism and enjoyment that hosting the Olympics will do.”

She says that she understands the concerns both inside and outside Spain. “However, we must not forget that we are not aspiring to stage the Olympics next year. They will be in 2020 and Spain has never been in a bad economic situation for eight years. If our economic crisis continues for two years, that is being pessimistic.”

Madrid certainly has the necessary airport, road and transport infrastructrure. 27 of the 36 required venues also exist already and two of the remainder will be temporary.

Madrid, the only major European capital never to have staged the Games, owes its existing facilities to the fact that this is the third successive time that it has bid. Beaten for the 2012 Olympics, when Madrid might well have been rewarded, if  it, rather than Paris, had opposed London in the final round, it was a distant runner-up to Rio de Janiero for 2016. But with each attempt, completed building works have improved its prospects.

Zabell, the Chief Executive Officer of International Relations for Madrid 2020, says that she sympathises with Rome, which withdrew last February from the race for the Games after the Italian President Mario Monti said that it was “irresponsible” to continue in the light of the nation’s ailing economy. She says: ”We got on well with our Italian friends and I felt really bad for them.” But she points out that unlike Madrid, Rome had virtually to “start from zero” to construct a lot of the necessary facilities.

Still Madrid has two particular projects, which would have to be completed if it were to be awarded the Games when the IOC votes on September 27, 2013 in Buenos Aires. One is the 17,800 Olympic Village and the other is the media and broadcast centre. It is planned that the Village would be sold off for private housing but as London found with its Olympic Village, this did not bring in as much money has had been expected.

The budget for building or renovating venues is 2.4 billion dollars but, as London and every other host city, has found, the difference between the figure in the bid book and the reality can widen appreciably.

Over the next year, Madrid will have to convince the IOC members of its financial ability to stage the Games. As the IOC evaluation report concluded: ”Careful monitoring of Spain’s progress in economic issues is needed to assess further the future risks of delivery.”

Keywords · Madrid 2020 · Theresa Zabell · Olympic bidding · John Goodbody

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