“We don’t know how to play this game”

Members of Madrid bid team put loss down to politics

The Tokyo delegation jumps for joy as their successful bid to host the 2020 games is announced.
The Tokyo delegation jumps for joy as their successful bid to host the 2020 games is announced. Y. W. (AFP)

“This is all about politics. We have presented a bid three times and we know it. It’s nothing to do with the quality of your bid. And we all know that Spanish politics is not going through its best moment.” That was the summary offered by one of the members of the Madrid delegation after the city crashed out of the voting to host the 2020 Olympic Games in the first round. And it was a point of view shared by many members of the Spanish team.

“This is all about politics,” was the most repeated phrase on Saturday night, including among the representatives of the royal family.

“This is a high-level political game, with international interests, lots of money, and certain balances in play,” explained another of the politicians who had traveled to Buenos Aires “It’s not always clean. And it’s clear that we don’t know how to play this game well.”

“It’s evident that we don’t have the political or economic strength to face up to a colossus like Japan,” said another Spanish politician.

A great sense of pessimism was already evident among the prime minister’s team in the weeks running up to Saturday’s announcement, in particular after it emerged that Madrid did not have the support of its potential European partners, given that many of them wanted to present a bid for the 2024 Games — a possibility Madrid 2020 would have ruled out. But no one thought the capital would be eliminated in the first round.

The result is a crushing blow not only for Madrid, but also for the Spanish political class, the government and even Prince Felipe, who was a figurehead for the bid, which also marked the first time that he had got involved in such a high-profile public role of this kind. That was the view after the announcement was made of some of the top-level members of the delegation — many of whom had tears running down their faces. The prince had the tough job of showing his face in public after the defeat, and his disappointment was clear for all to see.

The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was asked whether there would be a fourth attempt by Madrid to host the Olympics. “That has not yet been decided, nor is it up to me to take that decision,” he replied. Rajoy went on to say that the defeat would not have political consequences for the Madrid mayor, Ana Botella, who is the wife of former Popular Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He pointed to the fact that the failure to win the Games for Madrid in 2005 and 2009 had not had consequences for the mayor at the time, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. “Spaniards have shown that they have the ability to get over things like this, and grow in the face of difficult challenges,” the prime minister added.

In the context of the current crisis in Spanish politics, with the prime minister’s popularity sinking, along with that of the monarchy, the government was hoping for a successful bid to host the Games as a way of turning around the political, social and economic mood in the country. Sources from Rajoy’s economic team were clear that the Games would not have resulted in a boost for the economy, as 80 percent of the infrastructure was already in place in the Spanish capital. But they were hoping that a successful bid might create a feel-good factor, which would have trickled through to consumer confidence.

“We need some good news,” said one member of Rajoy’s team. “We have gone too long without any.”

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS