Is it as simple as “third time lucky” for Madrid?
After losing consecutive bids to London and Rio de Janeiro, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission (EC) Chief Sir Craig Reedie suggested the possibility at the closing press conference Thursday.
“They have taken the 2016 concept as a base and it is a better concept now than it was then. Who knows, maybe it’ll be third time lucky,” Reedie said, an allusion to PyeongChang’s string of bids for the Winter Olympics; two failed bids led to victory in a third for the 2018 installment of the Games as the “third time lucky” term became a mantra for the Korean bid throughout the campaign.
But luck had little to do with it, and Madrid should rely on fierce lobbying instead.
A four-day tour and review of Spain’s plans to host the 2020 Olympic Games wrapped up Thursday afternoon in Madrid after the evaluation team completed several proposed venue visits and examined themes in the city’s bid book.
Bid President Alejandro Blanco and his Madrid 2020 bid team painted a picture of a Games that could be organized prudently and effectively and in a way that could inspire the rest of the world that economic strife can be overcome through sport. Madrid presenters were diligent in portraying a city that could uphold the IOC values of sustainable legacy and putting athletes first.
While the message might have been clear to evaluators, it remains to be seen whether this flavour of Games is what the IOC is looking for in 2020.
Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said that Reedie told her there are “a lot of reasons to be proud of this city”, and Blanco explained that he believes the technical report will show that Madrid remains ahead.
“We deserve best score on report,” Blanco said.
But these reasons alone aren’t enough to persuade 100-or-so IOC members to choose the Spanish city come September. They have the evaluation report as a tool, but they’re free to interpret it any way they feel necessary and then cast their secret ballot based on any criteria they wish – and this truth is not lost on Spanish leadership.
“I am very proud of a job well done,” Crown Prince Felipe said.
“We can be confident about the serious, reliable and thorough manner in which our experts approached the information sessions.
“The final test is (at the vote) in Buenos Aires in September.”
Reedie said he was “greatly impressed” with Madrid’s bid as he showered it with accolades at the press conference, but just three weeks ago he used the words “hugely impressed” for Tokyo. He denied any deliberate comparison and didn’t define which the better superlative was – but perhaps “huge” is a subtle reference to the size of the project.
The IOC has had an appetite for large projects – PyeongChang, Rio, Sochi and London all fit that bill.
So while Madrid may be pushing a $1.9 billion dollar Games that are sustainable, safe and guaranteed – maybe the IOC is more comfortable with a bigger $4.9 billion dollar price tag from Tokyo – or a $19.2 billion extravaganza from Istanbul.
Still, IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli explained “the Games simply cannot get more expensive every single time.”
But, they always do.
Madrid’s single biggest asset is their Spanish member of the IOC ‘s Executive Board, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who’s influence on the entire organization cannot be underestimated. His personal campaigning will be key to Madrid’s success – likely more than scores on a report or the economic viability of the proposal.
His words tend to resonate, as they did when he spoke to the international media this week and his message about the bid received worldwide attention.
57 members of the international media travelled to Madrid this week, and in all there were at least 422 accreditations issued, according to the bid committee.
There is a common belief among those who follow these evaluation visits: a good visit will not necessarily win the bid, but a bad visit will most certainly lose it. On all accounts Madrid was successful this week; but if the bid team believes that the IOC needs to put a lid on spiralling hosting costs and unsustainable growth, then they need to get the IOC to believe the same in order to win.
The IOC Commission will now move on to Madrid’s rival Istanbul to conduct its four-day inspection beginning Sunday. Along with results obtained in Tokyo earlier this month, the commission will then develop and publish a technical report to be shared with IOC members ahead of a special meeting in Lausanne in July.
The final election for the 2020 Olympic host city will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina at an IOC Session on September 7.