Olympics: Dark horse Madrid aiming to upset the odds

MADRID, Denholm Barnetson - Madrid may be an outsider in the 2016 Olympics race, but the city is betting that the overwhelmingly support within the sports-obsessed country will upset the odds on Friday.
Opinions polls carried out in Spain say around 85 percent of Spaniards are rooting for Madrid to beat Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo when the International Olympic Committee votes in Copenhagen.
That's far higher than the support in the other three cities, and compares notably to a figure of 56 percent in Tokyo.

Olympics: Dark horse Madrid aiming to upset the odds
The depth of enthusiasm was demonstrated at the weekend when some 400,000 people turned out in a city square to form a massive human mosaic in the colours of Madrid's candidature.
Spaniards have a passion for sports that has been boosted by spectacular recent success in football, tennis and cycling.
Our sportsmen "make us proud when they represent us", said the head of the Madrid-2016 organising committee Mercedes Coghen.
The Spanish capital can also point to Barcelona's hosting of the 1992 Games -- one of the most successful Olympics ever --, the fact that more than 70 percent of the facilities are already built, and its compact size in a bid to influence IOC members.
"Madrid is the most practical, it's the size of the city, a city of average size, it's ideal, everything is close," said Coghen - the captain of the women's Olympic field hockey gold medal winning team in 1992.
The Olympic facilities "are divided into two zones, well adapted to the size of the city", she told AFP.
The core of the Olympic facilities would be located in the east of the city, including the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Village.
The River Zone in the west would host the venues for nine sports, including rowing, cycling and tennis.
It is also predicting "the greenest Games ever", should Madrid get the nod this week. This would include the creation of a total of 2,200 hectares of green belt throughout the city.
Part of that will be a massive new project along the Mananzares river -- including a city beach -- scheduled for completion in 2011.
But with London set to be the venue in 2012, some are predicting Madrid will fall victim to the unspoken rule the Olympics must be rotated between continents -- something Coghlen rejects.
"Honestly, I don't think that it will be a problem. In Madrid, we refer to the rotation of cultures in the world in the 21st century... Madrid's offer will mark a radical change from the anglo-saxon culture (of London), she said.
"Culture can have an influence and we are a city rich in that."
Madrid will also have the heavyweight support in Copenhagen of Spain's former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and King Juan Carlos, a former Olympian who represented Spain in sailing in the 1972 Games.
But whether they will be enough to counter the presence of one high-profile Chicago native -- US President Barack Obama -- remains to be seen.

Tuesday, September 29th 2009
Denholm Barnetson

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