“Good luck, Madrid,” read the slogan adorning the Air Europa flight that carried the bulk of the delegation to Buenos Aires on Thursday in search of the necessary votes to ensure the 2020 Olympic Games are awarded to Spain’s capital ahead of Tokyo and Istanbul.
Madrid has been dreaming of hosting the biggest sporting event in the world for almost 20 years. Since 1997, when the city first made its desire known after Seville had been taken out of the running for the 2004 Games, Madrid has been denied on two occasions, coming second in the final round of voting four years ago behind Rio de Janeiro.
During this period, the city has certainly had time to perfect the art of the Olympic bid, and the feeling among the bid team is that the 2020 attempt is a polished article. Going into Saturday’s final vote Tokyo is viewed as a slight favorite having received the most glowing entry in the IOC’s technical evaluation report issued in June, but written before violent protests across Turkey and the latest emergency at the Fukushima reactor.
“Tomorrow is the most important day of this long road,” said Spanish Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco at a press conference Friday ahead of the final presentations a day later. “We are optimistic but also realistic.”
Madrid has certainly left no stone unturned in its quest for ultimate approval and among the delegation are several ministers, the mayor of Madrid, Olympians, royals and sports stars of international stature. The final presentation will feature the LA Lakers’ Pau Gasol, 22-time Paralympic medalist Teresa Perales and Prince Felipe, the heir to the throne. “There are potent reasons [for Madrid] to win,” said Industry and Tourism Minister José Manuel Soria. “The Games will be a catalyst for employment [...] I would ask the IOC to take the good report of the evaluating committee into account.”
The final presentation is very important. We have to show our passion"
“Madrid is a cosmopolitan city that knows how to welcome tourists and has a great cultural diversity and practically all the infrastructure already in place. With Spanish sport at its height... It’s time,” added women’s basketball captain Amaya Valdemoro.
“The final presentation is very important,” said Blanco. “We have to once again show our passion, the beauty of our candidacy [...] and that what we offer is in line with what the Olympic movement wants.”
The Madrid government estimates that the Games will create 50,000 full-time jobs, while the budget for completion of works to host the event comes to 1.158 billion euros according to City Hall. Tokyo estimates its required outlay at 3.320 billion — although it has the advantage of a $4.5-billion US reserve fund in the bank — while Istanbul’s project still requires 12.730 billion euros, half of which will go toward roads and a rail system.
Madrid is presenting its candidacy as the “austere Games.” Istanbul is banking on its geographical location as the meeting point of East and West; Tokyo’s bid is based on “lifting the nation’s spirits following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011,” according to the IOC evaluation report, which did cite concerns over plans to use some venues from the 1964 Tokyo Games and over high hotel prices.
Madrid has pulled out its big guns, even those who cannot be in Rio for the final push. “I would have loved to be there to support such a beautiful cause,” said Rafa Nadal from New York, where he is playing in the US Open. “Spain needs a lift like this and it will be a very positive emotional impulse for the country.”
“Madrid deserves the Games,” said Formula 1’s Fernando Alonso from Monza. “The city and the country are making a tremendous effort and Spanish sport has been achieving great success over the last eight or 10 years, which I hope will help to convince people.”
Even Leo Messi, the reigning Fifa World Player of the Year and captain of the Argentina soccer team, backed Madrid’s bid: “It will be a good choice, for what Madrid is like as a city and the world class sportspeople that Spain has. I am with Madrid,” he said in promotional video with Blanco at an Argentina training session in Buenos Aires, holding a Madrid 2020 flag.
Will it all be enough to secure the Games at the third time of asking? “It is impossible to know the result of the vote,” said Blanco. “But we couldn’t possibly have done more. We have given our lives to this.”