Madrid mayor rules out bid for 2024 Olympic Games

Ana Botella jokes with journalists about famous "café con leche" quote and defends efforts

"A country that punishes those who try is a country without any initiative," she says

Madrid Mayor Ana Botella, who announced on Thursday that the city would not bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. / Ballesteros (EFE)

After three consecutive failed bids to host the Games, the city of Madrid is finally giving up on its Olympic dream.

“At this time, the Olympic race has already given us all the benefits we could expect from it for the coming years. I think Madrid should not seek to host the 2024 Games, and I have said as much to the king and to the prime minister,” Madrid Mayor Ana Botella announced at a meeting with journalists on Thursday.

What Botella failed to specify, despite reiterated questioning from reporters, is whether she will be the one making that decision when the time to do so actually comes, following the municipal elections of 2015. Asked whether she wants to run as the Popular Party’s candidate, she simply “reaffirmed” her “personal and political commitment to the city.” Botella became mayor in December 2011 thanks to a city council vote that chose her as the replacement for Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who was leaving to become justice minister with the new central administration.

Thursday marked Botella’s first press conference following Madrid’s defeat to Tokyo in Buenos Aires last Saturday, during which the mayor’s presentation to the International Olympic Committee caused great hilarity back in Spain. Botella’s memorized speech, delivered in heavily accented English and impassioned tones, highlighted old stereotypes about Spain being, above all, a “fun” place where people “celebrate life” like no other citizens on Earth.

I know this country’s sense of humor, and I am laughing too”

One particular sentence of hers, regarding the opportunity of being able to enjoy a “relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor” immediately went viral on the internet, giving way within hours to musical remixes and satirical comments. T-shirts with the phrase were being sold in Madrid as early as Monday.

Asked about these jokes, Botella said: “I know this country’s sense of humor, and I am laughing too.” She even tried to crack her own joke about it, telling journalists at the beginning of her address that she hoped they’d been “served their morning coffee.”

Botella told the gathering of reporters that the 2020 bid was a good try. “We had a great dream, not a random dream but one that was based on reason. We shouldn’t feel guilty about it. There seemed to be serious options that the goal would finally be reached. Those expectations were not made up by anybody, they had a reasonable basis.” Then she added: “Perhaps in the last weeks we took our excitement a little too far. Politicians did it, the media did it, the athletes did it... but I don’t think it’s something we should feel too mortified about.”

The mayor admitted she had no clue as to the reasons for Madrid’s shock elimination in the first round of voting. Paraphrasing the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, she said: “We came to a race where the only rule is that there are no rules, but the potential benefits outweighed those risks, and in life you have to run risks.

“I have the impression that in just a few hours too many analyses, theories and retrospective opinions began circulating,” she continued. “Some people even attempted to raise ghosts of our past history associated with national disasters and failures. They probably did that because it’s the easiest thing to do, even if the comparison barely holds together for an instant.”

In her speech, Botella said that “what has happened deserves some reflection, but not dejection. A country that punishes those who try is a country without any initiative.”

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