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Madrid says economic crisis ending, can afford 2020 Games

Madrid's Mayor Ana Botella speaks during a news conference in Buenos Aires, on Madrid's candidacy for the 2020 summer Olympics, September 4,
Madrid's Mayor Ana Botella speaks during a news conference in Buenos Aires, on Madrid's candidacy for the 2020 summer Olympics, September 4,

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Madrid's Olympic bid team said on Wednesday that Spain's debilitating economic crisis is ending and the country will have no problem covering investments and rallying support at home to host the 2020 games.

Madrid hopes to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it is best suited to stage the most expensive sports event in the world, despite the thousands who have protested austerity measures in the capital city in recent years.

IOC members will vote for either Madrid, Istanbul or Tokyo on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

"The economic crisis is starting to get better," Madrid Mayor Ana Botella told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that 90 percent of the infrastructure needed to host the event is already in place.

"The amount we would have to invest over seven years is very small compared to the budget of the state, the autonomous community of Madrid and the city hall," she said.

Spain has been in and out of an economic recession since a property boom ended in 2008, but Spanish officials have taken a bullish tone in recent weeks as data suggest the country could be on the verge of a turnaround.

Madrid's current bid, its third in a row after failed attempts for the 2012 and 2016 editions, comes as Spaniards are struggling with slashed wages and benefits and an unemployment rate of around 25 percent.

But bid chief Alejandro Blanco said a recent poll conducted in August found 91 percent of Spaniards now support Madrid as Olympic host - up from 81 percent in a different poll in March.

"This shows that support in Spain for our candidacy is practically unanimous," said Blanco.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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