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Madrid lawmakers approve 2020 bid amid opposition

MADRID (Reuters) – Madrid’s city council on Wednesday approved a bid for the 2020 summer Olympic Games, although the Spanish capital’s economic woes prompted two smaller parties to oppose the project.

The vote was carried by the support of Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) and the Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol (PSOE), which rules at national level.

“We cannot let this opportunity pass,” Deputy Mayor Manuel Cobo told legislators.

Some 80 percent of the infrastructure needed to stage the Games was already in place, Cobo said, while PSOE spokesman Jaime Lissavetzky suggested 20 million euros ($28.4 million) could be raised from private sources that would render the bid “zero cost.”

However, lawmakers from both the Izquierda Unida (IU) and Union Progreso y Democracia (UPyD) parties opposed what will be the city’s third bid for the Games, citing city debts of 7 billion euros and saying the money would be better spent on public services.

The IU had decided to withhold its support “in the belief that Madrid’s goal as a city should not be to organize an Olympic Games but instead a fairer project that is more balanced in a political and social sense,” spokesman Angel Perez said.

UPyD spokesman David Ortega added: “We cannot ask citizens to make this enormous effort because in the end it will be them who pay the bills.

“It’s not acceptable that there is no money for senior citizens’ homes, public schools or assistance for small and mid-sized firms but there is for the sporting facilities for the Olympic Games.”

Madrid has never hosted a summer Games, unlike the Catalan capital Barcelona, which was transformed into one of Europe’s top business and holiday destinations after staging the 1992 edition.

Madrid made the final round of voting for 2016 but lost out to Rio de Janeiro, while an earlier bid for next year’s Games faltered in the third round when they were beaten by Paris and eventual winners London.

Rome and Tokyo have already announced their plans to bid for 2020, while Istanbul and Doha are reportedly considering entering the race. The winner will be chosen in Buenos Aires in September 2013.

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