By HAROLD HECKLE
MADRID (AP) â¿¿ Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told IOC inspectors Monday that much of the infrastructure needed for Madrid's 2020 Olympic bid is already built, emphasizing a low-cost approach at a time of financial austerity.
Rajoy welcomed the IOC's evaluation commission at the start of its four-day inspection of Madrid, which is competing against Tokyo and Istanbul.
"Madrid has a great advantage: 80 percent of the sports facilities needed to hold an Olympic Games are already built," Rajoy said.
Spain's government has thrown its weight behind the bid, although the country is immersed in a deep financial crisis and has an unemployment rate of 26 percent.
Rajoy said Madrid was accustomed to hosting major events and Spain already welcomes 58 million visitors each year as one of the world's favorite tourist destinations.
With Spain's economy mired in its second recession in three years, thrift is the byword of Madrid's bid.
The bid committee said 28 of the 35 proposed venues are already built, and that its budget to finish preparations is a modest $1.9 billion, plus an additional $192 million for security costs.
The IOC panel has already visited Tokyo and will travel to Istanbul next week. The full International Olympic Committee will select the host city in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.
Madrid is bidding for a third straight time after losing to London for the 2012 Olympics and Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games, and the budget figures have been trimmed from the previous campaigns to reflect Spain's reduced means.
The country has the European Union's highest unemployment rate, and Rajoy's government is part-way through implementing one of the Euro bloc's most stringent austerity programs.
As the government has cut the size of the country's welfare state, Spain has been rocked by public protests, large demonstrations and strikes.