Madrid Olympic Chief Says 2020 Win May Foster Lower-Budget Bids
The choice of Madrid as host of the 2020 Olympic Games this weekend would signal that even cities with limited budgets can host sports’ biggest event, according to the president of the Spanish capital’s bid.
Madrid, bidding to host the Summer Games for the third straight time, cut planned spending on infrastructure and stadia by almost a quarter from its failed attempt to secure the 2016 games, according to Bloomberg News calculations. Madrid’s $1.9 billion budget is half of what bookmakers’ favorite Tokyo plans to spend and almost nine times less than what Istanbul has pledged. The winning bid will be announced following an International Olympic Committee vote on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires.
The decision “is very important because maybe in the next bidding cycle there will only be five countries that think they are capable of delivering the games because of the costs,” Alejandro Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee and Madrid’s bid for the 2020 games, said yesterday in an interview.
Spain, which finished second to 2016 host Rio de Janeiro in the last vote, has been one of the worst victims of the global economic crisis. The unemployment rate has grown to 26 percent from 18.5 percent since Madrid last bid for the games and the public sector debt last year increased to 84.2 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 53.9 percent in 2009, as the government backstopped municipalities, tax-funded pensions and jobless-benefit systems.
Rome pulled its bid to host the 2020 games in February 2012 when then-Prime Minister Mario Monti said it would be a drain on public resources. Madrid persevered because 80 percent of the infrastructure needed to host the event, which attracts more than 10,000 competitors from 205 nations, is already complete, according to Blanco.
Since the start of the slowdown in the global economy in 2008, governments have been under pressure to show what public money has been spent on, Blanco added. Brazilians took to the streets in record numbers during soccer’s Confederations Cup in June to protest and focused some of their anger on the amount of money being lavished on sporting events. The country is spending about $15 billion to host next year’s soccer World Cup, and a similar amount in public and private investment is going into the 2016 Olympics.
“If the crisis has taught society anything it’s that we can’t spend money as we’ve been doing up until now,” Blanco said. “What we have done is what society has asked us to do. Once the games are over there won’t be a huge number of buildings that end up being useless.”
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