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April 27, 2017

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Spain needs Olympic Games more than ever: bid chief

PARIS -- Madrid winning the right to host the 2020 Olympic Summer Games would deliver just the boost that is needed as Spain battles against a grueling recession, the bid leader Alejandro Blanco told AFP in an interview.

The 62-year-old, president of the Spanish National Olympic Committee, said in reply to those who query whether Madrid has the financial power to host the Games it was actually a very good reason to give Spain the Games for the second time in their history — Barcelona having hosted them successfully in 1992.

"The socio-economic situation in the country is a very good reason for investing and creating jobs and wealth to get the economy going again," said Blanco.

"You also have to remember that the global economy has been so unstable that it's only now that we can see exactly where we are. But what's going to happen in 2020?"

Blanco, a former judoka who was also president of the Spanish judo federation, drew a comparison with some host cities whose economies were stronger than Madrid's at the time they won the Games but who since have suffered serious economic harship.

"Some host cities were in a totally different economic situation when they were awarded the Games to when they actually delivered them," he said.

"To my mind, it's not how you start that matters so much, but how you end.

"And the fact that Madrid already has about 80 percent of the necessary infrastructures in place — including the airport, ring roads and underground — is a solid guarantee of stability.

"Our investments will be reduced to the minimum. We also have the full support of the Spanish, regional and local governments and will travel the whole way with them hand in hand."

Blanco, whose Madrid bid is competing against Istanbul and Tokyo — the only one of the cities to have previously hosted the Games — said that a Madrid win would be a win for the country as a whole.

"Spain needs the Games more than ever," he said.

"This is a strategic project for the country as a whole, not just the city, and we need joint projects that can bring us together.

"Private enterprise is committed to the Bid and sees it as a unique opportunity to breathe new life into the economy.

"The Games will attract investors, boost investment, create wealth and promote tourism."

Blanco, who is due to leave for a series of engagements over the next couple of months as he tries to sell his message to some of the 100-plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) members who will vote on the host city in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7 next year, said the London Games proved his point about the economic benefits.

"The project does not come to an end in 2020.

"We have to look on it as a long-term initiative that will leave an incredible economic legacy for Spain.

"We only have to look at the UK, which came out of recession in the third quarter on the back of the Games. This is only the start of a long journey."

Blanco, who says he is driven on by a passionate belief that in winning they can build a new society, said victory would also give some much-needed hope to the youth of Spain, who presently are suffering from an unemployment rate of 52.34 percent.

"Our young people are the force that can revitalize our economy," said Blanco.

"They need motivation and they need to know that they can get on in life.

"We've just conducted a nationwide survey on public support for the Bid, and the results showed that 90 percent of people aged under 25 back the project.

"Young people see the Games as a vital opportunity for development and progress in these difficult times."

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