Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Games of the Mediterranean - 2018

The Mediterranean semi-Olympic Games celebrate since 1951, usually one year after the World Olympic Games. 26 countries bordering the Mediterranean sea participate in the current 18th edition.

Originally this 18th edition was scheduled to take place in Greece. However, the dire economic situation forced them to abandon the project. Tarragona had proposed to celebrate the games in 2021, and decided to advance its candidacy with a half-baked organization project. By 2016 became obvious there was not going to be enough money, both public and sponsors’ to carry on with the games and they were postponed one year to 2018. That was supposed to give enough leeway for the construction of some of the sports buildings (a large sports hall, the swimming pool, and a few others). However, the money continued to be a big problem, particularly the part promised by the Spanish Central Government. The Catalan government “La Generalitat” invested sufficient funds for the structures, buildings and side roads needed. But the Central Government, mired in political difficulties all through 2016 did not put up the money.

Politics. The Partido Popular, having lost most of its predicament in Catalonia, with less than 5% of representation, while being the party in power in Madrid, was quite reluctant to invest in some international event to be held in Catalonia, without profiteering as they were used to.
A good part of the greedy grafting performed by the Popular Party in the past decade, the whole “Gurtel” affair, and the scam carried out by the Spanish king brother in law, had to do with the organization of big events, political or sport.

Organization. When the economic problems were pressing, all of the sudden appeared an obscure entity: the SantaGadea Group, offering to overtake the whole of the organization and the constructions of the sports installations. Behind the SantaGadea was a turbid scam proposed by the Partido Popular with the support of the Spanish government and, somehow, conditioning the economic support to the Santagadea takeover. After weeks of wheelings and dealings, finally the Tarragona Municipality rejected the project and open a public bid, opting for one of the contestants “Focus Events” for the organization of the opening ceremony and TicketMaster to handle the tickets, retaining the control.
It was not until a few weeks ago the Spanish government finally decided to open the purse and send the 12 million euro needed to complete the financial expenses of the games. In the middle, the Spanish Olympic Committee had been messing around and interfering constantly against the Games (that is another long story).

The fucking inauguration ceremony. It was planned under the direct supervision of La Casa Real, that is the Spanish crown, with the help of operatives of the CNI, the intelligence agency of the Spanish state. The idea was to make a show of support to the king and the idea of a great united Spain. The podium would present the king sided by M. Rajoy, head of the Spanish government and his vice-president Soraya Saez de Santamaria, by then acting president of the Catalan government under the application of the article 155 of the Spanish constitution, and the city mayor. There would not be any Catalan representation as the Catalan government after the December elections had not been nominated as yet. The tickets to attend the ceremony were diverted and given away to some anti-catalanist extreme rightist minor organizations, instructed to carry Spanish flags and cheer the king. The Casa Real  (The House of Bourbon, perhaps?) was utterly scared the king and the national anthem would be booed and whistled as it has been customary in recent events, particularly in Catalonia. The Spanish king is not welcome in Catalonia, especially after his television speech on October the 3rd, when he chastised and reprimanded the Catalans for carrying out the Referendum for the independence and proclamation of the Catalan republic.
This scheme was frustrated with the fall of the Partido Popular government, ousted by a “motion of censorship” with the accord of the majority of the House (the “Congreso”) when the sentence about he corruption of the PP was made public. Unable to react, in the middle of that mess, no tickets were put on sale and the result was a stadium half empty, with only “españolistas” attended, and the whole media claim of disaster ensuing.
The real fact is that king’s supporters in Catalonia are very few!!
The City hall and the mayor, final responsible for the Games, have been caught in their innocence and lack of ability to fight off powerful operatives, mainly the Spanish state.

Development of the games. Despite some minor incidents, in a great part overblown by the media, the Games had taken place quite successfully from the sportive point of view, with the exception of empty stadiums particularly during the initial part of the games. A population of 250.000, not all that enthusiastic about the whole affair from its inception, would not forfeit their jobs and obligations during a working week that marks the beginning of the tourist season, a major economic resource of this part of the country.
The finals of athletic contests and also the swimming races had been attended by more people and some of the events had a full house.

Still to be seen (I’m writing this on Sunday morning, before the end of the games and not knowing what the closing ceremony will end up being), the good part is that the city will retain a few brand-new good sports installations and a refurbished stadium.

The rest will be just another chapter of the convoluted political situation of the country.

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