March 18 - Madrid 2020 today hailed the first day of its visit from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission a success but fears continue that the rest of the inspection could be disrupted by demonstrations.
The Commission, chaired by Britain's Sir Craig Reedie, were greeted by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy before doing a tour of several sites, including Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu where they were met by the club's captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and given the opportunity to take penalties against him.
They were also each presented with shirts from the nine-time European champions with their names printed on the back.
The Commission also visited Retiro Park and Las Ventas bull ring which would host the beach volleyball and basketball respectively, a concept which aims to replicate the success London 2012 enjoyed by using famous public landmarks such as Horse Guards Parade and Greenwich Park.
"The day has gone very well," said Madrid Mayor Ana Botella.
"There was nothing untoward and the questions we received were the ones we expected.
"In the Bernabeu the members were very happy to be presented with a shirt with their name on the back and meet players and directors, as they did in all of the four venues we visited."
But Spain's economic crisis, which has hindered Madrid's bid since it was launched, continues to cast a long dark shadow over the campaign.
Last week subway workers ago called off a planned three-day strike that was scheduled to start tomorrow, though workers at public sports facilities in the Spainish capital are planning to protest against Municipal Government cuts outside the Hotel Eurostars Madrid Tower, where the Commission is staying.
Other public transport strikes and demonstrations are also feared.
There were no strikes today as it was a public holiday here.
Spain has made five rounds of austerity cuts in less than a year, including reductions in public-sector wages and unemployment benefits while raising the value-added tax, as it tries to reduce its budget deficit.
Unemployment is now at 26 per cent, its highest level since 1975 when General Franco was still in charge of Spain.
Public debt rose to a record 84 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2012.
Botella has claimed that hosting the Games would kickstart the Spanish economy and help its recovery.
"We have terrible [economic] data," she admitted.
"But in this situation, getting the Olympics would undoubtedly be good news.
"In seven years, I sincerely believe that Spain will be out of this crisis."
Rajoy emphasised to the Commission that, with 80 per cent of the venues they plan to use in 2020, Madrid's bid offered a solid economic model and that Spain has a good record of hosting major events.
"Madrid has a great advantage," he said.
"Of the sports facilities needed to hold an Olympic Games, 80 per cent are already built.
"In addition, it is a city well used to hosting major events.
"Spain is a country too that is fortunately very used to welcoming visitors.
"It is the third leading country in the world for annual number of visitors, with 58 million tourists coming to our country last year alone."
Rajoy claimed that the demonstrations did not mean that the Spanish public were against the bid.
"I have stated what I believe is the general feeling of Spanish society," he said.
"Madrid has already attempted to win the bid on two previous occasions and was not successful then, but now we are convinced it can be so we are going to battle hard to win.
"We are ready and prepared to host an event of the importance of the Olympic Games and we would do so very proudly.
"We are absolutely convinced that with the backing of people in Spain it would be a huge success for Madrid,
"Spain and in general for the whole Olympic Movement."
Madrid claims that it needs to invest only €1.5 billion (£1.3 billion/$1.9 billion) between now and 2020 to ensure that it is ready to host the Games.
"We have steered clear of white elephants," said Victor Sanchez, the chief executive of Madrid 2020.
"Projects that have no real use for citizens after the Games have finished.
"That is why we have given priority to existing infrastructures and then to other infrastructures that the city has a direct need for.
"Finally, where a future use cannot be guaranteed, we have opted for temporary solutions.
"Only three such temporary solutions will be used, while a mere four permanent facilities remain to be built.
"The result is lower costs, reduced environmental impact and less disruption to the everyday lives of the people of Madrid, all with Government backing at central, regional and municipal level."
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