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Olympics

Madrid's Olympic bid strengthened by Spain's sporting excellence

MADRID (AP) -- Hosting the Olympics in 2020 would help create jobs in a country grappling with recession, a deep financial crisis and 25 percent unemployment, leaders of Madrid's bid said Tuesday.

"We can afford this, we can solve the difficulties and we can build a wonderful games," Spanish Olympic Committee President Alejandro Blanco said at the city's town hall.

Blanco spoke a day after Madrid submitted its full bid proposals to the International Olympic Committee, which will select the host city on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires. Madrid, which is bidding for a third straight time, is competing against Istanbul and Tokyo.

Following the collapse of the nation's property market in 2008, Spaniards and many of the country's banks were left struggling under the weight of toxic loans.

The government introduced stinging austerity measures to avoid seeking a bailout similar to those given to Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus. Many citizens protested in marches against what they say are moves to degrade vital public services.

Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said the bid includes a frugal and realistic $1.9 billion infrastructure budget made possible by use of many existing facilities, with only four permanent venues still to be built.

She said the bid features "austerity as one of our axes."

Madrid failed in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, which went to London and Rio de Janeiro.

Regional government president Ignacio Gonzalez noted the London Games created 20,000 steady jobs.

"One of the most important aspects of this bid is job creation," Gonzalez said.

Culture and Sports Minister Jose Ignacio Wert said promoting fair play was also a key issue, and the government was drafting new anti-doping legislation to protect against cheating.

While one of Spain's doping laboratories was suspended for three months on Dec. 22 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Wert said new practices were already in place.

Wert said Spain's stance on doping would be "one of the strengths of our bid."

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