Madrid, whose population, hit hard by record unemployment and a long recession, had rallied around the idea that the Games could help create jobs and revive the image and economy of Spain. In contrast, large groups of people in the central Taksim district in Istanbul celebrated their city’s Olympic defeat on Saturday night. They argued that the Turkish government had tried to use the Olympics as an excuse to ignore environmental concerns and proceed with large-scale building projects.
Madrid and Istanbul started counting the costs on Sunday of failing once more to be named an Olympic host, after Tokyo was chosen to organize the 2020 Games.
That cost could be higher for Madrid, whose population, hit hard by record unemployment and a long recession, had rallied around the idea that the Games could help create jobs and revive the image and economy of Spain.
In contrast, large groups of people in the central Taksim district in Istanbul celebrated their city’s Olympic defeat on Saturday night. They argued that the Turkish government had tried to use the Olympics as an excuse to ignore environmental concerns and proceed with large-scale building projects.
With 80 percent of its earmarked Olympic venues already completed, Madrid’s bid was centered on a straightforward argument: we have built the sites already, so let us at least use them.
Madrid, Spain’s capital and largest city, now faces a new challenge, as it scrambles to reduce $9.2 billion in debt as it figures out what to do with some of its half-built or underused sports centers, including a water sports complex that was to serve as the Olympic swimming pool. Construction on the aquatic center started in 2004, but the work was halted four years later amid budget overruns as Spain’s construction bubble burst.
Among Madrid’s other underexploited flagship sites is the Caja Mágica, or Magic Box, a tennis center with a retractable roof that opened in 2009, with intentions of holding Olympic events. The center ended up costing $387 million, compared with an initial budget of $158 million, but it has been used little since, except for a Masters tennis tournament held each May.
The voting was carried out in Buenos Aires by secret ballot, making it impossible to know why members of the International Olympic Committee favored Tokyo over Istanbul and Madrid. But a negative factor shared by the two losing cities, their countries’ response to doping in sports, might have played a role.
Turkey recently announced a “zero tolerance” stance on doping after a string of positive test results that led to the ban of more than 30 athletes by the Turkish Athletics Federation. In 2011, however, Turkey lost its World Anti-Doping Agency accreditation after failing to comply with international standards.
A Spanish judge fueled international criticism in April, when she ordered that about 200 bags of blood and plasma be destroyed instead of handing them over to antidoping inspectors. The bags were among evidence seized by the police during a cycling investigation focusing on Eufemiano Fuentes, a Spanish doctor found guilty of endangering public health by providing blood transfusions to cyclists. During his trial, Fuentes said his list of clients also included unnamed athletes from soccer, tennis, boxing and track and field.
The Madrid delegation hoped that the investigation had been put to rest, but the doping issue was raised Saturday before the vote in Buenos Aires, both during Madrid’s presentation to the Olympic delegates and in a news conference.
A few hours later, after Madrid was rejected, disenchantment and sadness spread rapidly among the large crowd that had gathered around Puerta de Alcalá, one of Madrid’s landmarks, where local musicians performed before the vote.
In Istanbul, however, recent social divisions were highlighted Saturday as supporters and opponents of the Olympics gathered at separate sites. After Istanbul failed in its fifth Olympic bid, some cried and others embraced in the ancient square of Sultanahmet. Most just stood still, lowering their Turkish flags.
In Taksim Square, those who had opposed the bid celebrated late into the night. Taksim had been turned into a battleground in June after disputes over the razing of a public park evolved into the largest antigovernment rally the country had had in more than a decade. Analysts have said that one of the largest setbacks for Turkey’s Olympic bid was the government’s harsh crackdown on the protesters.
“We’ve been tear-gassed too many times to have any Olympic spirit left in us,” said Ali Turan, an architect who has been active with the “Boycott Istanbul 2020” campaign in Istanbul. “This city has to learn to value its people and environment before it makes any promises to the world.”
The campaign was led by a group of urban planners and architects who carried out an assessment of Istanbul’s candidate file and concluded that it was a “megaconstruction pitch,” devoid of the Olympic ideals of legacy, spirit and sustainability.
“In Turkey’s candidate file, there are no environmental assessments, no ecological consideration or evaluations of social impacts for those that will be displaced from their homes,” the group said via e-mail.
Separately, clashes between the police and students at Middle East Technical University in Ankara began Friday and continued into Saturday, with the police firing tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators who were protesting deforestation on their campus. The deforestation was led by the city to accommodate a road project.
After the Olympic vote, Ankara’s mayor, Melih Gokcek, wrote on Twitter that the antigovernment protesters were traitors who caused Istanbul to lose its bid.
Raphael Minder and Ceylan Yeginsu
8 September 2013