IOC evaluates Spain’s bid to host Olympic Games 2020

Delegation in Madrid met with three-day strike and major doping trial

Metro workers at a rally in Madrid to protest against salary cuts. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Metro workers at a rally in Madrid to protest against salary cuts. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 06:17

An IOC delegation has spent four days in the Spanish capital this week, evaluating the city’s bid to host the 2020 games. And while Madrid has successfully shown off the vaunted strengths of its candidacy – the 80 per cent of infrastructure already built, a tradition of sporting excellence and strong public support – other, less welcome factors have muscled their way into the line of vision of the IOC.

Most noticeably, there was the three-day strike by workers on the city’s metro underground railway. Those organising the protest against layoffs and salary cuts insisted it wasn’t deliberately planned to coincide with the IOC visit, although the UGT union said it was good for the visitors to “see the reality of the country”.

Health workers, teachers, students and others have also taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against political corruption and spending cuts.

Meanwhile, one major sports-related event Madrid has been hosting is the ongoing Operation Puerto case, the biggest doping trial Europe has ever seen, with dozens of Spanish athletes, coaches and doctors called to testify. Spain ’s Olympic bid includes a pledge to fight drugs in sport. But Puerto is bad publicity and on Wednesday, the International Cycling Union accused six Spanish riders of lying when testifying during the trial.

Another reservation the Olympic Committee might have about Madrid holding the games – the economy, which was headline news yesterday when it was revealed that one in five Spaniards now lives in “relative poverty”.

The host of the 2020 Olympic Games – Istanbul and Tokyo are the other candidates – will be announced in Buenos Aires on September 7th.

Bleak horizon
With its motto of “Lighting up the future”, the Madrid bid seems to acknowledge that the horizon in Spain is somewhat bleak. With a national unemployment rate of more than 26 per cent, the Madrid authorities are planning on creating over 300,000 jobs if the Olympics come to town.

And inevitably, austerity is a feature of the candidacy. “The budget that remains for the building of infrastructure, around €1.5 billion … over a period of seven years, is a perfectly affordable amount,” said Madrid mayor Ana Botella.

This is Madrid’s third straight attempt to land the Olympics. In the 2012 race, the city was outflanked by surprise winner London and there was a feeling that the Spanish capital’s European status was a handicap when Rio de Janeiro was picked for 2016.