Olympics 2016 - Behind the bid: Madrid
To paraphrase 1980s Spanish pop group Los Refrescos, you can have a thousand cinemas, theatres and museums but when August comes there is still no damn beach.
The host city for the 2016 Olympics will be announced on Friday October 2nd.
The oppressive summer heat of Madrid, one of four cities vying to host the 2016 Olympic Games, and its lack of a sandy shoreline might put some visitors off but the Spanish capital still has plenty to offer.
Refuge from the blazing sunshine can be sought in a world-class art museum or leafy park and tourists can sample tapas on a cool terrace as the evening temperature dips Madrid is home to just over 3 million people and attracts millions more each year with its rich cultural heritage, diverse architecture, hundreds of restaurants and bars and deserved reputation as Europe's party central.
The sprawling city stands in the centre of Spain on the Manzanares river atop a plateau some 650 metres above sea level and the landscape rises steeply to the north-west into the spectacular Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range.
The surrounding region boasts such landmark sites as El Escorial, with its stunning royal palace, Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Cervantes, and Segovia, with its ancient Roman aqueduct and gothic cathedral.
Madrid itself is known as the city of a thousand faces due to the diversity of its architectural styles, from the imposing 16th century buildings around Plaza Mayor, through 18th century Baroque to art deco, modernist and fascist.
During the 1980s, the enlightened cultural policies and imaginative urban planning of Socialist mayor Enrique Tierno Galvan helped transform the city from the grey and depressing power centre of the Franco dictatorship.
The process has continued apace under successive mayors and popular neighbourhoods include La Latina, grungy Malasana, trendy Chueca with its large gay community, cosmopolitan Lavapies and upscale Salamanca.
The city has quadrupled in size in the last half century but most of the main tourist sites are within a walkable central area that is also served by a clean, safe and efficient metro.
Eating and drinking is one of city's greatest pleasures and dinners can stretch into the early hours of the morning.
Madrid has preserved many of its traditional taverns with their carved wooden and zinc-topped bars, marble tables and colourful ceramic tiles.
Botin, near Plaza Mayor, claims to be the world's oldest restaurant dating back to 1725 and was a favourite of writer and adventurer Ernest Hemingway.
Typical dishes include cocido madrileno (a stew with different kinds of meat, vegetables and chickpeas) and cochinillo (suckling pig cooked so tender that the meat can be stripped from the bone with the edge of a plate).
Tapas such as cured ham, meatballs, spicy potatoes, chorizo sausage, potato omelette, manchego cheese and grilled shrimp can be washed down with excellent Spanish wines, cooling tinto de verano (red wine and soda) or crisp local beers.
Temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in July and August and the city's superb art museums and well-maintained parks provide escape.
The gigantic Museo del Prado has the world's finest collection of Spanish painting ranging from the 12th to the 19th century and is a mecca for lovers of Velazquez and Goya.
There are dozens of theatres offering top-class ballet, opera, classical music and zarzuelas (Madrid-style operetta), and many cinemas have a wide selection of movies in original language.
For the aficionado or the merely curious there is the Plaza de toros Monumental de las Ventas, considered the world's premier bull-fighting arena.
A tip for passengers arriving at Terminal 4 of the city's Barajas airport, opened in February 2006 and built at a cost of 1 billion euros: expect to wait up to an hour for your luggage.
Los Refrescos may be forced to eat their words once a project launched by mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon is completed next year.
The plan involves converting a section of the Manzanares into a park, including bicycle paths, cafes, restaurants–and an urban beach.
Q&A with Madrid 2016 bid chief Mercedes Coghen
REUTERS: Why should your city be awarded the 2016 Olympics?
COGHEN: "Madrid 2016 is the Games with the 'Human Touch'. Madrid 2016 is the safest bid. Madrid 2016 is the bid we can all count on - for fun, for sporting excellence, for the future of Olympism and for the world.
"It is compact, environmentally friendly and very well supported already. It is fully financed and guaranteed. It has everything it takes to stage a successful, moving and memorable Olympic Games.
"We have the experience, the expertise and the passion."
REUTERS: What is the strength of your bid and what would you want to improve if you had more time?
COGHEN: "Very simply, Madrid is an amazing city. It is ready and able to take the Games in swifter, higher, stronger directions.
"We made a bid for the Games four years ago and have time to consider our project and make adjustments to present an even stronger bid this time around.
"The only thing we can improve is how we demonstrate the strength of the project. It is there for all to see, and Spanish athletes are currently performing at the top of their game in sports across the world.
"That's because we have amazing facilities and deep passion for sport in Spain. As our capital, Madrid is an international sports city - for fans, tourists, athletes and citizens."
REUTERS: Given that some recent Games have left behind little in terms of legacy, what would the legacy be for your city and the IOC, should it win the Games?
COGHEN: "The technical project of Madrid is highly advanced so we will set a benchmark for the world in what an Olympic city can be and show a new way of living together for urban development and social integration.
"Our venues will be used to benefit the city and the world as a training and competing platform. Some, such as the temporary venues, will be donated to developing countries. The Olympic stadium will become a new home for top football club Atletico Madrid.
"All communities within Madrid will benefit from improved facilities and a renewed energy for sport in their lives."
REUTERS: With bids forced to follow a strict set of IOC guidelines and criteria, what is the innovative aspect of your proposal that makes it unique?
COGHEN: "There are two things to bear in mind here. With the current global crisis it is really important for the IOC to have a partner it knows can deliver a fantastic Olympic event.
"The context of this vote is the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. With so many of our venues so advanced and with the experience and expertise of international events we already have in Spain, that assurance becomes an innovation in a world with so many questions.
"Secondly, Madrid is a city that lives sport and lives for sport, in our parks, streets, homes, gardens, schools and sports centres. We offer not simply an amazing event which will be well supported and popular but a new model for urban living.
"Already over half of the world's population lives in cities and that could increase to 75 per cent by 2025. So we will show, in Madrid, a new urban model for living together with sport and Olympic values at the heart of civic life."
REUTERS: How is your Games budget structured and what sort of guarantees are you offering the IOC?
COGHEN: "In total, the budget is $2,600 million dollars and can be considered balanced, easy to manage and harmonised. The Games will be completely self-financing with subsidies dedicated exclusively to the Paralympic Games.
"More than 40 percent of the income is guaranteed by the IOC's contribution, TOP sponsors and the Paralympic subsidies supplied by the three public administrations.
"Another 50 per cent comes from local sponsorship, licences and ticket revenues. In other words, 90 percent of the income is already covered, and everything is 100 percent underwritten by the Spanish State."
REUTERS: What impact has the financial crisis had on your plans and do you see it affecting the vote?
COGHEN: "The crisis is a problem for the world. We are all citizens of that world and sport is a vital part of our lives, so anything that is a risk for sport is a risk for people everywhere.
"Happily we have a strong economy, a solid base of foundations and political commitment and a huge desire for the 2016 Games in Spain. Our corporate sponsors stand at 68, including major multi-nationals, and they have pledged 70 per cent of the funding for the event.
"The rest is met by state funding, ticket sales and associated revenues, and everything is 100 percent underwritten by the Spanish government."
REUTERS: In terms of major venue construction what still needs to be built and what is already existing?
COGHEN: "Many of our venues are either already built or underway, such as the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. 77 pe rcent of the sports' venues are in hand.
"With others the land is already reserved so the project is all ready to go and can be completed in a clear timeframe. Our Mayor has already commented that Madrid could host the 2012
Olympics, our venues are so advanced!
"Of course, Madrid is a great world city so we have 100 percent of the necessary infrastructure in place for an event on this scale."
REUTERS: How much do you believe sponsors/broadcasters can influence the 2016 vote as major deals (including U.S. broadcasting rights and new TOP sponsors) are still pending?
COGHEN: "That is really a question for the IOC. Time zones are important for broadcasters and Madrid does offer advantages for spectator timetables throughout the world, regardless of time zone.
"We know we can offer all broadcasters a fantastic time and great facilities in Madrid, and many have said that already."
REUTERS: What political support will you have on-site in Copenhagen?
COGHEN: "We will be taking the full support of all Spain with us to Copenhagen. Many friends and supporters will be with us, including our bid team.
"The levels of government will be represented by our Mayor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, regional president Esperanza Aguirre, and Prime Minister (Jose Luis Rodriguez) Zapatero. Another high profile former Olympian will be with us, our King, Juan Carlos.
"He represents the whole of Spain because it is our national bid. We all want the Olympics in Madrid in 2016 and every one of our leaders knows that."