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Madrid’s bid appears to be far to smart for the International Olympic Committee. This is the same group that awarded the Winter Games to a Black Sea resort with little transportation and in one of the world’s most hostile countries to tourism.
After losing out on the past two Olympics, Madrid believes it has honed its bid to a point where it makes the most financially prudent choice to host the 2020 Games.
Thrift is at the core of Madrid’s bid, stressing that 80 percent of its venues are already built — the city will equip its picturesque bullring for basketball, for example — and only $1.9 billion is needed to complete Olympic construction.
The bid committee has also made a point of highlighting how hosting the games might act as a stimulus to an economy that in 2020 should have emerged from one of its longest and deepest financial crises.
By Sept. 7, when the full International Olympic Committee will select the host city by secret ballot, Spain will have been in recession for most of the past four years and burdened with a staggering 26.3 percent unemployment rate. Madrid is competing against Tokyo and Istanbul.
Tourism is Spain’s second most important industry and in 2012 it catered for 57.7 million visitors, a total likely to be exceeded in 2013, according to the tourism department’s statistics agency, Frontur. Madrid believes it makes an ideal and very safe destination for Olympic visitors as well as Spaniards whose sporting success recent years has been a topic of great national pride.
“Spanish sport and the people of Madrid need the boost the Olympic Games would provide, and Madrid is ready to face this challenge,” Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol said.
The two-time Olympic silver medalist for Spain emphasized the importance of presenting a financially prudent bid during a deep financial crisis.
“We are a city that is prepared with a responsible bid plan that will help develop sport far into the future,” Gasol said.
Madrid has 28 out of 35 venues built. Tokyo’s construction budget is $4.9 billion, while Istanbul’s is $19.2 billion, making the Spanish proposal by far the most economical.
Aware that high-profile doping cases have dented the country’s image in the past, Spain has tightened anti-doping laws and appointed a tough-talking lawyer to head its new Sports Health Protection Agency.
“My goal is zero tolerance with doping,” said Ana Munoz, who previously headed Spain’s Anti-Doping Agency and helped prosecutors secure a guilty verdict against Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the core of the Operation Puerto doping trial. She has also said that her agency is cooperating in an investigation into a support network that allegedly helped Lance Armstrong with doping while he trained in Spain from 1999-2005.
The new anti-doping law recently approved by parliament includes an extension of doping tests for athletes into night hours (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and costly fines for those who deal in doping substances.
Madrid also boasts an excellent transportation network, with a large airport connected to one of Europe’s most modern and efficient subway train systems. Madrid’s regional government says the subway train system is being employed in China to serve as a model for cities with populations below 10 million inhabitants.
While most cities that have hosted the Olympics in recent times have had to spend a good portion of their budget on building suitable transport systems, Madrid’s — which includes a good 24-hour bus service and three ring roads circling the metropolis — is already in place.
The centerpiece of the games would be Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, conveniently situated within easy walking distance from the capital’s city center.
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