In a parallel universe in which Madrid had won one of the three Olympic Games candidates, the surroundings of the Metropolitan Stadium would be very different from the current ones. The Atlético de Madrid headquarters would be surrounded by a large pavilion with two huge swimming pools, another stadium for gymnastics, a BMX circuit and even a velodrome. And crossing the road, through a wide pedestrian walkway over the M-40, we would reach an Olympic village with spectacular green areas and lakes.
Instead of all this, the failure of the Olympic attempts of 2012, 2016 or 2020 doomed the eastern part of the city to its current appearance: a huge expanse of uneven terrain, with few trees, many dry grasses and a rather uncertain future. . The only building that was erected in the area next to the stadium, the Aquatic Center, remains half done as a sample of what could be and was not: the works were stopped in 2010 and since then it has been fenced and under permanent surveillance to prevent let their degradation accelerate.
Despite the efforts, the place that was to host the swimming, jumping and water polo competitions, with a capacity for 18,000 spectators, is shown as a skeleton with a multitude of cracks appearing, through which water drips when a storm falls. , wearing down its columns in the air. Its construction stopped when the Madrid City Council had paid 99.6 million euros to the construction companies (Ortiz and Dragados) and almost half remained to be paid, since the final cost was calculated at 191.5 million despite the budget initial was $ 136.7 million.
A walk around the works invites you to think that the amount of money needed to complete the work is enormous: most of its walls, interior constructions, all the finishes are missing … just as it was left in 2010, when the UTE Dragados-Ortiz expressed its desire “not to continue with the work carried out since over time it may suffer significant deterioration and cannot determine the damages, implications and costs derived from the suspension,” according to a municipal report at the time.
The fate of this 22,000-square-meter ghost construction is difficult to glimpse. Two years ago, the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation (RFEN) submitted a proposal to try to get it started, at least in part. With a budget of 30 million euros, his idea is to finish off the building dedicated to water polo, the one that is more advanced, including a fixed grandstand for 1,900 spectators – expandable to 4,500 – capable of hosting international competitions. In addition to specific high-level tests, the facility would be marketed as a multi-sports swimming pool for public use, with 9,000 subscribers, in order to pay for the four million euros per year that its maintenance would cost.
Another of the unknowns that the legacy of the candidacies has left for Madrid is that of the lands that were to house the future Olympic village. Located between the district of San Blas and Coslada, its six million square meters were designed to accommodate the athletes who participated in the competitions, an indispensable condition that the International Olympic Committee demands for aspiring cities. Its managing entity, the New Centrality of the East, has proposed to the Madrid City Council instead a huge urban development to build 20,000 homes there.
The New Centrality of the East speaks of a “district of innovation, entrepreneurship and economy 4.0” and developing neighborhoods with the philosophy of the “city of 15 minutes”, according to the general lines of the project, which also suggest the extension of the line 2 Metro in the area. In its urban area there are, to the south, the Ambroz lagoons, of natural interest due to their special abundance of birds.
La Gavia, from whitewater to dry water
The La Gavia whitewater canal is another of the infrastructures that began its works and that was forgotten after the successive failures of the Madrid Olympic candidacies. Its design was commissioned to the Japanese Toyo Ito –winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize– and 18 million euros were budgeted to create a spectacular waterway that would obtain its flow from rainwater, which would also serve to irrigate the entire environment, converted into a spectacular green area.
As in the Aquatic Center or the Caja Mágica, the works began before knowing if Madrid would need the facilities to host the Olympic Games. And they were abandoned when the economic crisis hit. Only the central pond with branched shapes was built, which was left empty and abandoned, like the rest of this park in Vallecas, which became a rubble dump in some areas. Already with Carmena in the mayor’s office it was approved a new project to remodel this old dryland and turn it into an authentic green space, preserving part of the pond designed by Ito, perhaps as a reminder of what was left behind. The works are expected to finish at the end of this 2021.
How much did the lost Olympic adventure cost Madrid? The calculations are very difficult, although in 2013 it was already estimated that the costs of the successive candidacies were around one hundred million euros, half of them financed by the municipal coffers and the other part with contributions from companies that obtained tax benefits in return. To this must be added the other 100 million euros that were spent on the unfinished Aquatic Center or part of the 18 million budgeted for the Olympic channel of the Parque de la Gavia. And then there are the almost 300 million from the underused Caja Mágica, which managed to end another huge cost overrun (from 139 to 294) but which remains unused for most of the year except the week of the Madrid Tennis Open, after multiple attempts to monetize it through rentals, for example, to F1 teams or music festivals.
Despite the Olympic legacy in the form of a large bill, the wastelands and the skeletons of buildings next to the M-40, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, insists on bringing the Olympic flame to the capital, as the two have already tried last mayors of his party: as soon as he arrived in Cibeles, he announced his intention to promote a new adventure. “Madrid deserves an Olympic Games,” he said a month ago, shortly before the Tokyo Games began. The mayor is convinced that the capital has presented “extraordinary” candidacies and that it could become an Olympic venue “if it works along the same lines.”
For the Olympic future to be possible, an Olympic stadium with an athletics track and an area of land sufficient to build the houses of the athletes will be needed. Something difficult to imagine in the Metropolitan, where Atlético de Madrid -current owner- eliminated its athletics track to expand the bleachers. And that it will be even more complicated if the green light is given to the urbanization project of the lands of the supposed Olympic village next to Coslada. For the IOC to take seriously a new candidature from Madrid, a location for all these facilities would have to be found elsewhere in the capital. Where?