Madrid can strike gold third time round: Rajoy

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been present in the auditorium when Madrid lost out for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games but this time he believes it will be third time lucky and they will win the right to host the 2020 Games.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (centre) takes part in a welcome ceremony for the International Olympics Committee's (IOC) evaluation commission in Madrid on March 18, 2013. Rajoy has been present in the auditorium when Madrid lost out for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games but this time he believes it will be third time lucky and they will win the right to host the 2020 Games.

The 58-year-old - who has been in power since December 2011 having attended the previous two Games votes as Leader of the Opposition - was unable to be at the presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on Wednesday in Lausanne, but flew in afterwards to speak to IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Rajoy, who was speaking to three specially invited non Spanish journalists on Thursday, said he felt with the Spanish economy predicted to improve from its present parlous state the main question mark hanging over the bid had been answered.

Spain's official unemployment rate shot to a record 27.16 percent - with the young especially hard hit - in the first quarter of 2013, according to a quarterly household survey conducted by the National Statistics Institute released on July 2.

Rajoy's government, though, is forecasting the jobless rate will ease to 26.7 percent over 2014 and ease back further to 25 percent in 2015.

Spain, the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, is still struggling to overcome the aftermath of a decade-long property bubble that imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and sending debt levels soaring.

"Yesterday (Wednesday) I was in Berlin at a very important meeting regarding youth unemployment which is a key issue in Spain," he said.

"However, I managed to combine it with coming here to emphasise how much Spain wants the Games. We really want them and that is why Crown Prince Felipe (the heir to the throne led the presentation on Wednesday) and I have come here.

"The 1992 Games in Barcelona were a fantastic Games and changed perceptions of Spain.

"This is the third bid in a row but this time 80% of the installations are built. I was at the last two votes (Singapore in 2005, Copenhagen 2009) but I believe this time round we are in a very strong position to win.

"We have a great climate, it is a top tourist destination, great food, a transport system that can't be beaten and excellent traffic flow.

"Life obviously revolves around material things but we are human beings also and we have feelings and for us what is most important is the people's dreams and fulfilling them."

Rajoy, who was born in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, said there were two reasons why the question of the economy should not be a factor in the IOC members minds when they vote in Buenos Aires on September 7.

"Firstly the investment required is much less than the other bids as we have already presented two so almost every one of the stadia are ready, the football, the swimming and the track and field to name a few," he said.

"Secondly yes Spain and Europe in general are going through difficult times in 2013 but next year the Spanish economy and unemployment will improve and I say this as the Spanish Prime Minister.

"It is not just, however, me saying this it is also the OECD, the IMF and European Commission indexes that the Spanish economy will be back on track in 2014/15.

"Doubts about the economy do not exist anymore."

Rajoy, a keen sports enthusiast said that challenges remained but he had been very heartened by what the Spanish IOC members had told him after the presentation.

"The Spanish members were just delighted that one of the questions asked was about popular support," said Rajoy

"A poll done by the IOC said that 81% of people supported the bid....I'd be happy to have half that poll rating!" he said grinning.

Rajoy said he will fly to Buenos Aires post haste for the presentation on September 7 after a two day meeting (5th/6th) of the G8 in St Petersburg, Russia, to see whether Madrid can indeed see off rivals Istanbul and Tokyo.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency