Madrid 2020

Madrid 2020

“Al dejar fuera a Madrid fue como un baile de zombies” – Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, The president of the Association of Athletes.

It’s a sad night here in Madrid. The town was prepped for a huge party to celebrate the 2020 Olympics, but alas on a run-off in the first round of voting Madrid has lost out to Tokyo and Istanbul. As if on cue as the news was read out it starting raining on the large crowd that had begun to gather for the announcement.

I have always been fascinated by the Olympics. I love the international politics (remember the bad old days when the cold war was fought by amateur athletes), and how the infrastructure built during for the games permanently transform cities–or permanently mire them in debt, and, of course. I love the games themselves. The human body is the most amazing tool we have, and seeing world class athletes demonstrate our potential is simply thrilling.  Sadly for Madrid, this display will now be happening in Tokyo in 2020.

If you had asked me at any time in the last 5 years which of the contestant cities would host the 2020 Olympics I would have bet a fair amount of money on Istanbul. However in the last few weeks I started to think it might be Madrid. I had long ruled out Japan because of the relatively lackluster domestic support and the ongoing Fukushima disaster (probably the worst on-goal in human history). It is no accident that just before the final city was selected the Japanese Government pledged half a billion dollars to build an icewall to protect the realms of man from the leaking radiation.

Turkey was a sure bet to me. As a safe and stable democratic Islamic country, it just seemed like their time. (An Islamic country has never hosted the Olympics). Visiting the city last year and witnessing the massive infrastructure projects it was undertaking–particularly in transportation–I was even more certain that it would win the Olympics, and I was rooting for it.  But then the protests in Gezi park exploded.  The government’s strong reactions seemed tone-deaf, both to many of its own peoples and to the reaction of the International community. Couple that with the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria and a domestic sports scandal too boot and the frontrunner quickly lost it’s place.


So this is the part of the story where Madrid, the economically battered but plucky city that could, was going to step into the void and finally get some good news for a change.  Even though Spain’s economy is not doing very well with unemployment at over 25% for several years now, the country does continue to produce some the world’s best athletes.  (Not to mention the world’s dominate Futbol squad, the reigning European and World Champions). But alas, it was not to be.

The country’s elites fooled themselves into thinking it would happen, never mind that a few Indignados, unemployed and recently evicted were protesting the Olympics just down the street. Don’t worry, there numbers were small and the Madrid 2020 committee promised an Olympics “on the cheap,” with 80% of the infrastructure already in place. But the Olympic committee never wants a small party, even if they might say otherwise, they always want a celebration fit for Mt. Olympus!  470 million for an unprecedented ice wall is a pretty good start.


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