Racist chanting puts Madrid bid at risk

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The Independent Online

Racial abuse of black players during England's friendly against Spain has seriously jeopardised Madrid's chances of staging the Olympics in 2012, according to members of the International Olympic Committee.

Racial abuse of black players during England's friendly against Spain has seriously jeopardised Madrid's chances of staging the Olympics in 2012, according to members of the International Olympic Committee.

Leaders of the Madrid bid will have to act rapidly to limit the damage done by chanting at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, which happened just hours after details of the Olympic blueprint were unveiled in a lavish presentation in the Spanish capital.

One IOC member said the Madrid bid would have to reassure potential voters in North Africa, where they are counting on up to five votes, to prevent ground being lost to rivals Paris and London. "This will seriously harm their bid," he said. "Racial tolerance is one of the fundamental aspects of the Olympic movement. Even if they don't condemn it publicly then the Spanish have to work behind the scenes to keep potential voters on-side, especially in Africa."

The source said that Paris and London could take advantage by stressing the efforts to tackle racism in sport and added: "If one of their rivals is clever then they will be able to use this against Madrid. England used to be one of the worst places for racism at football and great efforts have been made to eradicate it. Spanish football will have to launch a similar crackdown."

However, another IOC member said it had not occurred to him that the chanting would harm the Olympic bid and would be forgotten by the time the 2012 vote is taken next July.

For the leaders of the Madrid bid, Wednesday night's ugly scenes came at a particularly bad time. The city's 600-page candidate file was submitted to the IOC this week and much has been made of its cosmopolitan environment. The friendly football match was seen as an ideal marketing opportunity by bid leaders, who paid for pitchside advertising in a move which led rival cities to complain that they had broken the spirit of Olympic bidding.

The London 2012 communications director Mike Lee said: "They chose to promote their bid at the game and they have a duty to condemn what went on as well. The Madrid organisers were not responsible for the racism, but I would hope that they would join with the Spanish FA to condemn it. Sometimes we overlook in this country how well we have actually tackled racism in sport and at sporting venues and also how Britain has embraced many diverse communities."

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