dijous, 16 de desembre del 2004



Catalan, and Spanish too, political landscape has been shocked lately by the debate around Catalonia’s pro or against move towards Madrid bid to celebrate 2012 Olympic Games. As it is well known, four others top cities compete for the nomination: New York, London, Paris and Moscow. As I write this, medias closed to Olympic movement, affirm that after Dubrovnik European Olympic Committees meeting, held a few weeks ago, it seems that London is the frontrunner, followed by New York. The other three, stay well behind, specially Moscow and Madrid.

May be for that reason, the anxiety is growing in Madrid. So does the intolerance and the hunt for dissident opinions. The mere fact that someone questions Madrid attributes, is immediately spotted as a kind of “enemy of the people”. As it was the case with Barcelona 1992 Olympic games, dissidence is not allowed. Worse even, dissidence does not exist, must not exist. There is no alternative, for all the spanish citizens, that to march behind a single flag. Even though those, like Sevillans, the first victims of Madrid ambitions, as they saw their legitimate ambitions to celebrate the Olympic Games frustrated by Madrid driven interests.

Once said that, may be it is more easy to understand the hysterical reaction towards Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, the catalan independentist and republican leader, speech suggesting that Catalans may not support Madrid bid. As an army of one, spanish politicians, media and interest groups, among others, reacted against those words, and attacking him. In a matter of few days, the catalanophobia increased some degrees. As an example, there were calls to spanish consumers to boycott catalan products, specially Xmas related goods, such as “cava” (the catalan champagne version). On the other hand, pro-spanish, unionist, politicians pressed to the government and the rest of Catalan institutions to issue official statements in support to Madrid ambitions.

But, ¿is it the opposition to Madrid 2012 a folkloric stand, a simple, primitive reaction, a kind of treason to all the Spaniards, a childish reaction? Not at all. My point here is that the opposition to Madrid 2012 is a rational decision … if we have the socioeconomic well-being of Catalan people at the top of our. Let me explain.

The first and obvious reason to oppose to Madrid candidacy is that, if it is chosen, the amount of public investment dedicated to the event will be enormous. But as a matter of fact, nowadays, Madrid, even without Olympic Games, is one of the regions most benefited by the Spanish Government public spending. It is well known that apart from the have not or poor regions, such as Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha or Extremadura, Madrid is every year the target of public investment, as the Spanish Government Budget shows. The striking thing is that Madrid is by no means a “poor region” at all, but one of the richest –in fact, not long ago, Madrid was introduced as one of the so called Spain affluent axe. A look to the differences between the amount of spanish governmet investment in Madrid and in Catalonia, states that Catalonia is well behind, even tough both territories have a more or less, similar socieoconomic level. As not few economic surveys and research conclude, Catalonia is the european region that most contribute to equalization payments (interterritorial solidarity) within its ow state. As a consequence the catalan have not social groups, cannot access to social programs or transfers. Sociological enquiries realize that the level of welfare in Catalonia is diminishing dramatically. To put thing worse, Catalonia has special needs in order to face new challenges. As an immediate example, it receives a higher share ,25%, of immigrant population in the Spanish State, taking into account its population weight (less than 16% ).

To sum up, if the key issue is to defend the socioeconomic welfare of Catalan citizens, specially of those more needed, we have to oppose to a decision that will increase the “forced solidarity” (an oxymoron expression, by the way) that catalans do every year.

But there is more. In 2007-08, the EU financial transfer to Spain will be dramatically cut, and will disappear in the years after. As it is well known, due to EU ampliation, Eastern European countries will be the new recipients of EU interterritorial cohesion funds. That means that Spain will lose more than 6 bilions€ per year. ¿Guess who will pay for that? You’re right, Catalonia will. In fact it is a non-sense to embark in an Olympic Games race taking into account that the country will suffer a severe diminish of money entry.

So, i think that to oppose to Madrid Games makes perfectly sense from a Catalan point of view. Not for national reasons, but for socioeconomic ones. To oppose to this Goliath type event is not a folklorical reaction, but a rational, grown-up, mature, and meditated decision.

Josep Sort
Political Scientist
Teaches at Universitat Ramon Llull