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Madrid: Mad over the Olympics, except maybe tourism minister

Written by Nell Alcantara

To say that Madrid, Spain, has been aggressively campaigning to host the Summer Olympics would be quite an understatement.

To say that Madrid, Spain, has been aggressively campaigning to host the Summer Olympics would be quite an understatement. Even after two consecutive unsuccessful bids– losing to London and Paris in the third round of voting for the 2012 Summer Olympics and losing in the final round of voting to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Spanish capital remains undeterred in making its case for hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

With all the talk in the travel and tourism industry about the the cost and benefits of hosting the mega-sporting event, with a 2009 report by the European Tour Operators Association out-rightly claiming that hosting the Olympics posts considerable threat to the host city’s travel and tourism industry by disrupting the normal. ETOA’s research found that visitors arrival for the past Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Athens in 2004, Sydney in 2000, Atlanta in 1996, Barcelona in 1992 and Seoul in 1988 found that the Olympic Games “disrupted normal tourism” and that the Olympic Games “did not reveal any conspicuous tourism growth.”

Some argue that the economic benefits of hosting a mega-sports event such as the Olympics cannot be measured on the year it hosts the event alone, but rather on a long-term basis. Spain hosted the Olympics in 1992, that is well over 19 years ago. I’ve a two-part question: How much did Spain spend when it hosted the Games in 92 and two, did Spain in fact gain the so-called long-term economic benefits of hosting the Olympics? Who better to address these questions than Spain’s tourism minister, Isabel Borrego, who coincidentally made her inaugural appearance as the country’s tourism minister at this year’s edition of ITB Berlin. Minister Borrego was part of the panel at the United Nations World Travel Organization press conference, which was held on March, 8, 2012.

The minister answered in Spanish, but her response was translated by UNWTO press secretary Marselo Risi. He said: “On the first part of the question on how much money was spent in 1992, she cannot respond for it was before her time. With regards to the responsibilities she has within the government, in the government has only developed two months ago. Of course, the revenue is both long and short-term revenue of hosting such a big international event. Now as you know, Madrid is bidding to host the Olympics, and, again, the revenue for Madrid as the host of the Olympics but for also the whole country, for Spain. Any large sporting event has, goes hand in hand with all various many levels, we have it in different types of sports; hosting the Olympics, even more so. In promoting and supporting fully the bid of Madrid to host the [2020] Olympics is of course also Spain as the overall host country, and she is convinced that… it will also contribute to the image of the country and even country brand.”

Knowing that Madrid has been fervently campaigning to be an Olympic Games host city again begs the question: Why is Tourism Secretary Borrego so clueless about the cost and economic benefits of hosting the Olympics? One would think that the tourism minister was making an appearance at the ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel and tourism exhibition, to make a stronger case for Spain’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. However, her inability to provide statistics relevant to hosting such a mega-event is simply inexcusable. It is perhaps missteps such as this that could be potentially lead to a disastrous outcome not only as a host city, but to a host country altogether. Case in point: Greece. (Read about it here: