Smart Games

Gildo Seisdedos. Professor. IE Business School

8 May 2013

Madrid stands a good chance of being successful in its latest bid for the Olympic Games if it centers its efforts on offering smart games in the face of economic crisis.

Third time lucky they say, and maybe this time Madrid will finally achieve its Olympic dream - the one time nobody expects it or wants it to happen. Not getting the 2012 Olympics was bad luck (to put it mildly), which left us standing on the outside of a dream that we had thought was about to come true. The problem with 2016 was that we ignored the fact that it was another continent’s turn to have the Olympics and we went along all dressed up for a party to which we had never really been invited. Perhaps that, together with a shift in citizens’ priorities due to the economic crisis,  is what lies behind the somewhat disdainful way some people now see this object of desire as a curse.

Ortega y Gasset once said that wasted effort leads to melancholy, and that’s why we have succumbed to an Olympic-sized melancholy in spite of the fact that this time, together with the games of 2012, the gamble could pay off. The experience racked up in previous candidatures, the fact that it is now the European continent’s turn, and the weight of the competitors are just some of the factors on Madrid’s side. But we also have to add a paradoxical but key fact, namely that the current Madrid model embodies, more than ever before in an economic scenario in which the lack of glamor of a sure bet which requires few new infrastuctures, is more than offset by the reduction in risk due to the solid base on offer. In 2012, London used a virtual model to beat a Madrid, which at the time could claim to have already done 80% of the required investment. Today that same strength is a massive plus.

Another, issue, regardless of the possibilities Madrid has of winning the candidature on September 7 in Buenos Aires, and surely more relevant, is what kind of impact hosting such an event would have on a country and its capital. This is where we have fallen into the same trap as the boyfriend who doesn’t think kindly of the girlfriend that left him, meaning that we have lost sight of all the good things that hosting the Olympic Games would bring Madrid and Spain.
Because although the Olympics bid is weighed down by the weariness associated with a third attempt, it actually fits in perfectly with the “small is beautiful” philosophy, and with the key challenges facing the Spain brand.

The term ‘smart city’ is currently as fashionable as it is indecipherable, and these Olympic games could be made into smart games, as a way to do more for less cost, as an alternative to the cutback scenario and the reduction of services, with the focus on efficiency, and also, more importantly, on doing things differently.

Spain has amazing infrastructures.  It’s a bit like having plenty of hardware and not enough software. Hosting the 2020 Olympic Games could play a key role in making people value existing infrastructures and in fuelling recovery in a country that has everything and just needs a spark to get it working again.


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