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'I can't believe a eurozone city wants the Olympics'

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'I can't believe a eurozone city wants the Olympics'
Fermin Cacho of Spain celebrates as he wins the gold medal in the 1500m final at the 92 Barcelona Olympics .Photo: Kazuhiro Nori
18:06 CET+01:00
Madrid is looking to host the Olympics Games in 2020. In The Local's latest opinion piece we ask if the world's biggest sports fest is a chance for the city to clamber out of a crisis-induced depression or just a huge waste of money, time and energy.
 
SUPPORTERS OF MADRID 2020 SAY:
 
1) Most the games infrastructure is already in place
 
"Madrid has a great advantage", said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently. "Eighty percent of the necessary infrastructure is already built." Twenty-seven Olympic sites are ready for use and the transport network already meets Olympic requirements. The Madrid organizing committee also says they don't need to buy any extra land as all venues are on council land. 
 
2) A cheap games
 
The Beijing games cost a whopping €40 billion, London splashed out €19 billion and the Rio budget is set for €14.000. By comparison, Madrid's €1.9 billion construction costs are a bargain.
 
3) The games will create jobs
 
In mid-2012, CEO Victor Sánchez told El Mundo newspaper that the games would create between 300,000 and 350,000 jobs of all types. And just last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Madrid could expect 83,000 full-time jobs as a result of the event.
 
4) There's plenty of popular support
 
Sources within Madrid town hall told The Local their polls put support for the capital's games among Spaniards at 81 percent while 76 percent of Madrileños are in favour of the sports fest. Among the under-thirties, the figures are even higher, with 91 percent giving the games the thumbs up.
 
5) The Olympics are great for sport in general
 
Rafa Nadal, the world-beating Spanish football team, Spain's cycling triumphs of recent years: all of these feats can be traced back in some way or another to the effect of the Barcelona Olympics of 1992. That event meant increased funding into all sorts of sports that had previously been overlooked. In short, Spain has been reaping the rewards of that investment ever since.
 
6) Third time lucky
 
Madrid is experienced bidder: the 2020 will be its third candidature on the trot.  Alejandro Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, emphasized that the Madrid plan is “responsible, in line with our resources and reality. It’s a solid project with clear, transparent budgets as indicated by members of the IOC”.
 
7) The Madrid Olympics could have a Barcelona-style rebound effect
 
Barcelona's port area went from bleak to beautiful as a result of the 1992 Games. Tourists now flock to the two miles of beachfront created for the Olympics. Those far-off also led to new roads, a revamped sewage system and more green areas around the city.
 
8) A morale boost for the city and the country
 
Back in 2010, crisis-ridden Spaniards took to the streets to celebrate their national side's victory at the football World Cup. The win acted as a breath of fresh air in the midst of the country's economic woes. The same could happen with the Madrid Olympics. Indeed, the mood in Madrid is already positive, with 20,000 people having already signed up as volunteers for the fortnight of sport.
 
9) A financial boost for Spain's economy
 
The IOC has estimated that €3.9 billion will be generated if Madrid gets the games. City organizers also says 800,000 extra tourists will flood into Spain and spend €625 million while they are here.
 
OPPONENTS OF MADRID 2020 CLAIM:
 
1) Madrid is in too much debt already
 
According to left-wing Izquierda Unida politician and Madrid councillor Jorge García Castaño, Madrid owes  €8 billion euros, twice as much as all other Spanish cities put together. Those aren't exactly optimal conditions for the staging of a major event.
 
On the same note, University of Toronto Sociology Professor and Olympics expert Helen Lenskyj told The Local: "Creative Olympic industry accounting usually generates a false picture of a profit, when in reality host cities, regions and countries pour enormous amounts of money into the event."
 
2) The infrastructure needed will cost at least €1.6 billion
 
While a lot the games venues are ready to go, six new venues are needed that's money that could be spent on hospitals, schools and social services. 
 
3) A game for the elites
 
The Madrid Olympics Committee calls 2020  a "games for all", with 38 percent of all tickets going for around €39 and 60 percent up for grabs for less than €62.5. The average ticket prince, however, will be a wallet-lightening €90 plus.
 
4) A lack of public support
While the Madrid 2020 organizers used a poll of 2,000 people to put support for the sporting event at around 80 percent, the group No queremos Madrid 2020 (We don't want Madrid 2020) prefer to point an online poll rub by Catalonia's La Vanguardia newspaper. That poll has collected the votes of over 15,000 people and show that only 26 percent of people support the capital's candidature.
 
5) Negative social effects
Olympic games tend to criminalize poverty and homelessness, Canadian Olympics expert Helen Lenskyj told The Local. She said Image-making was key, and organizing committees, police and politicians in all recent host cities have collaborated to remove poor people, homeless people and sex trade workers from the streets before the tourists and potential investors come to town.
 
6) Madrid 2020 could have an adverse effect on ordinary tourism
 
Many tourists at last summer's London Olympics were put off by the prospect of overcrowded streets and undergrounds, resulting in a drop in numbers in the city's main tourist hotspots. The London Zoo and the British Museum told the UK's Independent newspaper that visitor numbers were down as much as 35 percent. London taxi drivers also reported business dropped by between 20 and 40 percent depending on the time of day.
 
7) Spain doesn't need a tourism boost

Spain is already a big tourism destination which doesn't need a push.  Indeed, Spain's tourism sector has been one of the country's few crisis-proof industries. Last year, Spain welcomed three percent more visitors and those that did come spent 5.9 percent more, according to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism. Spain also clocked up position number 4 in the United Nations World Tourism Rankings.

8) The legacy of the Olympics

Madrid's left-wing councillor Jorge García Castaño wrote recently in La Marea newspaper that all Olympics host cities have struggled to make use of the games infrastructure. He added: "Madrid has the dubious honour of not knowing what to do a long time before the games."
 
9) The unpredictability factor
 
Helen Lenskyj tole the Local: "It is hard to believe that ANY city in the Eurozone would even contemplate hosting the Olympics at this point in history.  Boosters will no doubt say that the Olympics would help countries with their economic crises — but in reality no one can predict what Europe will look like 7 years from now.  The mere idea of producing a budget for a European sporting mega-event 7 years down the line should frighten any forensic accountant!"
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