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MARIANO RAJOY

Spanish PM: ‘We’re ready for Madrid 2020’

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday opened the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) evaluation team's visit to Madrid by claiming the city deserves the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Spanish PM: 'We're ready for Madrid 2020'
International Olympic Committee evaluation member Claudia Bokel smiles during a visit to the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid on Monday. Photo: Pedro Armestre/AFP

Madrid is hoping it will be third time lucky as it bids for the 2020 Olympics. 

The Spanish capital was unsuccessful in its attempt to host the 2012 and 2016 games, but that could now play to its advantage with 28 of the its proposed 35 venues already constructed.

And Rajoy was also keen to stress the country's experience in hosting big sporting events and large numbers of visitors.

"Madrid has a great advantage," he told a press conference on Monday.

"Of the sports facilities needed to hold an Olympic Games, 80 percent are already built. In addition, it is a city well used to hosting major events.

"Spain is a country too that is fortunately very used to welcoming visitors. It is the third leading country in the world for annual number of visitors, with 58 million tourists coming to our country last year alone."

Rajoy also played down the concerns that hosting the Olympics is the last thing that Spain's beleaguered economy needs in the midst of a crisis.

He claimed that the bid had public support and that money would not have been spent on a third bid if they did not believe it could succeed.

"I have stated what I believe is the general feeling of Spanish society. Madrid has already attempted to win the bid on two previous occasions and was not successful then, but now we are convinced it can be so we are going to battle hard to win.

"We are ready and prepared to host an event of the importance of the Olympic Games and we would do so very proudly. We are absolutely convinced that with the backing of people in Spain it would be a huge success for Madrid, Spain and in general for the whole Olympic movement."

The evaluation committee will visit sites across the city for the next three days before filing their report to IOC members.

Tokyo and Istanbul are the other cities in the running for the 2020 Games with a final decision on the host city to be taken in Buenos Aires on September 7th.

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CAT

Catalan leader accuses Spain of ‘worst attack’ since Franco

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Saturday of waging the "worst attack" on his region since dictator Francisco Franco after the central government took drastic measures to stop it from breaking away.

Catalan leader accuses Spain of 'worst attack' since Franco
Pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona on October 21st 2017. Photo: AFP

In a televised announcement, Carles Puigdemont said Madrid was failing to respect the rule of law after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist executive, take control of regional ministries and call elections. The premier said he had no other choice faced with the threat to national unity.

Puigdemont said the measures were “incompatible with a democratic attitude and do not respect the rule of law,” calling on the regional parliament to meet over the crisis.

He accused the Spanish government, which still has to get approval from the Senate to implement the measures, of waging “the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people since the decrees of military dictator Francisco Franco abolishing the Catalan government”.

Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 to his death in 1975, and among other repressive measures took Catalonia's powers away and officially banned the Catalan language.

Cautious, though, Puigdemont did not once say the word “independence” as Spain and the rest of the EU waits to see if he declares a unilateral break from Spain after the region held a banned independence referendum on October 1st.


Carles Puigdemont. Photo: AFP

Puigdemont delivered most of his short speech in Catalan, but also switched to Spanish and English.

In Spanish, he accused Madrid of “attacking democracy”.

And in English, he said European values were at risk.

“Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime,” he said.

Led by Puigdemont, 450,000 supporters of independence protested in Barcelona on Saturday, shouting “freedom” and “independence” after Madrid announced drastic measures to stop the region from breaking away.

“It's time to declare independence,” said Jordi Balta, a 28-year-old stationery shop employee, adding there was no longer any room for dialogue.

The protest in the centre of the Catalan capital had initially been called to push for the release of the leaders of two hugely influential grassroots independence organisations, accused of sedition and jailed pending further investigation.

But it took on an even angrier tone after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his government would move to dismiss the region's separatist government, take control of its ministries and call fresh elections in Catalonia.

Municipal police said 450,000 people rallied on Barcelona's large Paseo de Gracia boulevard, spilling over on to nearby streets, many holding Catalonia's yellow, red and blue Estelada separatist flag.

READ ALSO: Spain to dismiss Catalonia's government, call elections