Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Atleti's Olympic Riddle

It seemed to be a perfect plan. Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón would get his Olympic arena as a result of a giant property deal involving the demolition of Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium and the refurbishment of the Peineta stadium on the other side of the city. The football club would get a new stadium, which would be paid for from the flats built on the site of the old one, and this new stadium would also be the centre of Madrid’s 2016 Olympic bid. A huge amount of money would pass, albeit briefly, through Atleti’s bank account on its way to the construction companies who would do so nicely out of building the new flats and upgrading La Peineta. It was the ultimate Madrid deal, the happy convergence of speculative construction with a city administration in permanent need of ever grander projects so that no one will ever forget the reign of the pharaoh. That the club doesn’t really need a new stadium matters little, Atleti’s fans have put up with so much else in recent years this seems almost insignificant by comparison.

Suddenly the plan doesn’t look so good. Problem number one, the rights to the redevelopment of the land occupied by the Vicente Calderón are in the hands of Martinsa-Fadesa. This company is not showing much enthusiasm for building new blocks of flats at the moment. Problem number two, nobody is showing much interest in buying new flats anyway; a situation that looks unlikely to change in the near future. The funding behind the whole deal doesn’t look very secure. As if that wasn’t enough it has been reported that Gallardón no longer regards a revamped Peineta as being sufficient tribute to his wisdom and power. Following his recent trip to Beijing he now wants to have the biggest and best Olympic stadium the world has ever seen. Even with a bit of creative accounting the proceeds of the Atlético pelotazo may no longer be enough to fulfil his wishes. The search is on for companies to take the place of Martinsa, there are certainly many volunteers who will be interested in building the lavish new stadium, but those new flats down by the river are not so enticing at the moment. As for the funding gap, if the city debt is already so high who will notice anyway if they add a bit more? It’s all for a good cause.

No comments: