March 21 - Madrid Mayor Ana Botella has admitted that Barcelona has a higher profile on the international stage than her city because of the success of the 1992 Olympics and Paralympics, which is proving a powerful factor in the Spanish capital's efforts to bring the Games here in 2020 as the two cities enjoy a long rivalry.
"There there was a before and an after [with Barcelona] and often, when you travel abroad, when you say, 'I'm Spanish', people often know more about Barcelona than they do Madrid," said Botella.
Botella has played a leading role this week in the visit here of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission, chaired by Britain's Sir Craig Reedie (pictured top), to inspect their bid, which is their third consecutive campaign following failed efforts for 2012 and 2016, which were awarded to London and Rio de Janeiro respectively.
Sir Craig, who played a crucial role in London's bid when they defeated Madrid eight years, offered some encourgament to his hosts when he spoke of how this bid had improved.
"I think what happens in every bidding context is that the cities just get better and better and better," he said at the conclusion of the Evaluation Commission's visit.
"People have seen the experience of Games in different parts of the world and I don't think there is any doubt that this candidature has learned from that.
"They have taken the 2016 concept as a base and it is a better concept now than it was then. "
Sir Craig was supported by Gilbert Felli, the IOC's Executive Director for the Olympic Games, as the Commission wrapped up its second visit to three cities, having earlier been to Tokyo.
They are due to fly to Istanbul from here tomorrow, ahead of the start of their four-day inspection, starting on Sunday (March 24).
"The cities always learn from the process of candidacies," said Felli.
"We have seen that with the quality of what has been presented to us here.
"So yes it's an improvement with the process of the candidacy of Madrid."
But Madrid's bid is being undermined by the economic crisis which hit Spain, leading to record unemployment and cuts in public services.
Being awarded the Olympics and Paralympics is seen as being potentially a major catalyst to help Spain recover from its problems.
"We believe it will help a country from the old continent come out of crisis," said Botella.
Spanish officials have continually tried to emphasise that they do not offer a financial risk because 78 per cent of the facilties are already built and Madrid has one of the best infrastructures in Europe.
But whether that is reflected in the Evaluation report, due to be published on July 3, remains to be seen.
"We have had a very clear statement from the Bid Committee," said Sir Craig.
"They believe the Spanish economy has suffered a very difficult time but that it has stabilised and it will improve.
"I have to tell you if I could predict the future movement of world economies I would not be sitting here.
"We are grateful for their honesty and openness."
The three cities are due to deliver a key presentation on July 4 in Lausanne to IOC members.
That will be the most important date in the cities calendars before the vote at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on September 7.
Botella is convinced that the fact Madrid have to invest only €1.5 billion (£1.3 billion/$1.9 billion) in major projects between now and 2020 to ensure that it is ready to host the Games is a major factor.
"We have spent a lot on infrastructure but that is something we are already enjoying," she said.
"That is something that is fundamental for any Olympic Games because there are many examples of Olympic Stadiums and infrasturcture that have become white elephants.
"We have a fantastic public transport network and we also have one of the best airports in the world."
Last night Prince Felipe, who had carried the Spanish flag at the Opening Ceremony of Barcelona 1992, where he competed in the sailing, hosted a dinner for the Evaluation Commission, along with Queen Sofia, at Palacio Real de Madrid.
"I think it's important to convey our confidence in the quality of the project," he said.
"I am very proud of a job well done.
"We can be confident about the serious, reliable and thorough manner in which our experts approached the information sessions.
"The final test is in Buenos Aires in September."
Alejandro Blanco, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee and Madrid 2020, shares the confidence of Prince Felipe and Botella that this is a winning campaign, offering a new model for cities bidding in the future and the Olympic Movement.
"The last two bids were good projects but we were told the bid has improved," he said.
"We've corrected and tweaked things.
"There is always room for improvements.
"We've listened to the IOC and to our own people.
"We think this bid offers a new opportunity for the Olympic Movement, a new way of perceiving a responsible, sustainable way adapted to the IOC approach.
"When we look at the budgets in the past Madrid now is best tailored to reality - and that's a new avenue.
"We think this is a winning bid and one adapted to the modern age so we think we are in a good position - and you can't say more than that.
"We've seen that cities which put forward stratospherically expensive bids did not get through to the final three.
"Their bids were not in line with the wishes of the IOC and we've heard a lot of statements from high-ranking people to that effect.
"I doubt if, with loads of money, we could have a better bid...all we want to say to the IOC is: 'Trust us, because we will be ready and our Games will be great Games.'"
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