Can Madrid's Bid for a Thrifty Olympics Succeed?

As the start of London's summer games grows near, the competition to host the 2020 Olympics is heating up. Paul Sonne looks at whether the "shoestring" bid of Madrid, formed amidst Spain's austerity drive, can beat out the other finalists.
July 17, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Since China poured an estimated $40 billion into Beijing's lavish 2008 coming out party, Olympic bids have generally headed in two distinct directions: cities with established infrastructure proposing more sustainable events that utilize existing facilities, and cities in emerging markets that can afford to spend more extravagantly. 

Now Madrid, a finalist to host the 2020 Summer Games along with Istanbul and Tokyo, is formulating a final bid to win an event it hopes, "would help bring 'economic and social recovery' to Spain and boost employment, particularly for young Spaniards facing a 52% jobless rate."

According to Sonne, "The city's [Madrid's] bid committee is marketing the proposal as a shoestring Olympics-a model designed to show how to organize the event on a tight budget. Madrid's initial application says 78% of the sports venues already exist in the city and only about nine structures need to be built."

With Spain's government pushing through a €65 billion austerity program, critics are questioning if leaders should "pour public funds into a risky financial bet." 

"This is not the moment to be thinking about this kind of event," says José García Montalvo, an economics professor at Barcelona's Universitat Pompeu Fabra, pointing to a contradiction: "If you claim that most of the infrastructure is already built and you're not going to use a lot of public money, then you're not going to [create] a lot of jobs."


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Published on Monday, July 16, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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