There was a sudden moment of absolute silence – then long faces, tears, shrugs and bitter disappointment in Madrid’s Puerta de Alcala square on Saturday evening when news broke that the Spanish capital, for a third successive time, had failed to secure the Olympics.
Although thousands attended what was supposed to be a full-scale public fiesta, as soon as Madrid was eliminated, the public quickly drifted away without waiting to find out who had won. Some younger supporters were in tears, one sobbing into a Spanish flag draped around his shoulders.
“We are in shock,” said Monica Cortez, a 36-year-old working in marketing who sported a red T-shirt with a huge yellow E on the front for España. “We never thought we would lose in the first round.”
Although many Spaniards hoped that Madrid would get the Games to help to lift their embattled economy – “it was going to be like a light at the end of the tunnel,” Cortez said – a few suggested the outlay could be better spent on the country’s crumbling schools and hospitals. Others pointed directly to Spain’s economic woes as key to its non-selection.
“The decision can only be attributed to the loss of international stature and its poor image, dragged down by unemployment, the recession, political corruption and territorial tensions,” Sunday’s editorial of the right-wing El Mundo newspaper said. Others blamed Spain’s failure to bring closure to its doping scandals – such as the Operacion Puerto. Either way, as the sports daily Marca said, the blow was of “Olympic proportions”.