Madrid’s decision to continue campaigning for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, despite Spain’s economic crisis, has been strongly defended by the country’s most senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, who claimed it is an “act of responsibility” for them to carry on bidding.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, a member of the IOC’s ruling Executive Board, made the claim as a small, but vocal, group of protesters gathered outside to protest that Madrid had continued to bid against rivals Istanbul and Tokyo at a time Spain is suffering record unemployment and there are major budget cuts to public spending.
One banner pleaded, “Please eliminate us,” to the IOC Evaluation Commission, chaired by Britain’s Sir Craig Reedie, which is carrying out an inspection of the bidding cities.
But Samaranch, part of the three-man team which presented recently to the IOC Evaluation Commission on finance, claimed that the country could continue to afford to underwrite a bid because 80 percent of its planned facilities for 2020 are mostly built, along with most of the infrastructure.
“The money has already been invested,” said the son of the late IOC president with the same name. “The infrastructure is there, you have experienced the airport, the subway, the facilities. The truth of the matter is that, contrary to what some people try to imply, for Spain to continue bidding for the Games is an act of responsibility. We have put in the money and it would be hugely and vastly irresponsible to walk away now and not try to get the financial, economic and social return of all the money we have invested and paid for already.
“Contrary to other cities, like Rome, who said that they cannot afford it, in our case we cannot afford not to continue,” Samaranch added. “You’ve invested all the money and you are ready to walk out on that investment and let go before trying to get the windfall that it brings.”
Madrid claims that it needs to invest only $1.9 billion in major projects between now and 2020 to ensure that it is ready to host the Games.
“The proposition for the Games in Madrid is a very different proposition than for any other Games in recent history,” Samaranch argued. “Many candidates think that if they get the Games they will do the improvements but Madrid has done it the other way around. It has continued to improve the city in order to get the Games. Now we need the Games. There is no financial risk with Madrid. Most of it is already invested.”
This is Madrid’s third consecutive bid, having lost out to London for 2012 and Rio de Janeiro for 2016, at a total cost of $100 million.
But that still represents good value, claimed Samaranch.
“That is rewarded and paid for in different channels,” he said. “The amount of unpaid publicity we get through the press internationally is much more of a reward than the effect you can get in an equivalent media investment. Bidding in itself is not necessarily throwing money out of the window, even if you lose.”
Samaranch, however, is hoping that this time Madrid will be chosen so it can end its claim to being the biggest capital city in Europe never to have hosted the Olympics. Plus, it would help signal an economic renaissance, he predicted.
“Here we are, near the bottom of the economic crisis, and with little further investment we would be able to generate a significant economic growth,” he said. “The morale boost that we would have would be extraordinary. That is one of the medicines we need right now.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important in the context of the Olympic movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.