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Madrid officials still hopeful

7/4/2005

MADRID, Spain -- King Juan Carlos is said to be using all
his influence. Former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch is phoning
friends for help.

Queen Sofia will lead the Madrid delegation in Singapore on July
6. Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol will lead an array of
Spanish sports stars endorsing the city's 2012 Olympic bid.

The Spanish capital is doing everything it can in the final days
of the five-city race, which also features Paris, London, New York
and Moscow.

In a June 6 evaluation report, the International Olympic
Committee praised the Madrid bid but was more complimentary of the
bids for Paris and London.

"We have to keep our hopes up. We can't fall into feeling
defeated just because of a word or two," Madrid bid chief
Feliciano Mayoral said.

Still, Madrid officials believe they have a strong chance of
winning the vote.

"A year ago they said we wouldn't make the cut and now we're in
the top three," said Mayoral, though the IOC has not formally
ranked the cities. "When the IOC members enter and study the
candidacy they will see that it has all the virtues and fulfills
all the requisites to guarantee the success of the games. And that
is what they are most concerned about."

Madrid knows it lacks the enchanting lure of Paris and the
confident stature of London, but claims it has some trump cards
that could swing the vote.

For one, Madrid is the only major European capital that has
never held the Olympics (London and Paris have both staged them
twice). Madrid lost to Munich in a bid for the 1972 Olympics, but
that was when the country was run by late dictator Gen. Francisco
Franco. Spain and its capital have come a long way since then.

Bid officials believe the vote will go to a third round
featuring Paris, London and Madrid, and Spain's newfound moderate
stance in international politics could be decisive in the final
result.

Others say the IOC may be reluctant to give the games to Spain
so soon after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But officials in
Spain note that Atlanta (1996) staged the games just 12 years after
Los Angeles, and there would be a 20-year gap between Barcelona and
Madrid.

Also, the bid raises security concerns: Nearly 200 people were
killed last year in bombings of four commuter trains blamed on
terrorists linked to al-Qaida, and Spain is still facing threats
from the armed Basque group ETA.

Meanwhile, King Juan Carlos is held in high esteem worldwide,
and Samaranch -- who served as IOC president for 21 years until 2001
-- is friends with many members on the committee, some of whom he
appointed.

Joining Queen Sofia in Singapore will be Prime Minister Jose
Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Also on hand will be Real Madrid soccer
star Raul Gonzalez, five-time Tour de France champion Miguel
Indurain, former tennis star Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gasol.

Politics and lobbying apart, Madrid maintains its strongest
point is the closeness of the venues to the athletes' village and
the low cost of its project.

Given the IOC's wish to reduce costs, Madrid's bid could seem
desirable with an Olympic operating budget of $2.1 billion and
separate infrastructure budget of $1.6 billion.

Twenty-two of the 35 planned venues already have been built,
while two are being refurbished, five are under construction and
six are awaiting a final go-ahead.

"We have 83 percent of the venues already built or in the
pipeline and seven years to do the rest -- no other city comes near
that," Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said.

Madrid has hosted nearly 90 sports events in the past four
years, including the European swimming championships and European
indoor track championships. The city is also home to one of the
world's most famous soccer clubs, Real Madrid, whose Santiago
Bernabeu stadium downtown would be a 2012 venue.

In terms of popular and political support, the evaluation
committee report recognized that Madrid's bid was backed by all
Spanish parties and regions and by more than 80 percent of
Spaniards.

Central to Madrid's bid is the plan for the main Olympic stadium
and other venues to be a short walking distance from the athletes'
village and about 10 minutes away from both the airport and
downtown.

Madrid also boasts that spectators would be able to travel to 25
venues by public transportation. The city's cheap and modern
underground metro would serve more than 80 percent of the sites.