Bravo for the Bronze

Madrid was third in the olympic race for 2012, won by London on the eve of the Islamist attacks on public transport that turned the joy of triumph into sorrow.

Luis Fernández-Galiano   /  Source:  El País

Madrid’s bronze tasted like ash, but other metals will be minted in the embers of disappointment. Exhausted by the struggle, the Spanish capital is not face down on the canvas, but at rest in that brief pause that allows one to inhale for the next assault. In a few years another window of opportunity will open, and this impatient metropolis of ours will compete in a new sprint. Madrid has made it to the podium after the most disputed final round ever, overtaking the representatives of both Cold War empires, New York and Moscow, beaten only by the great metropolises of the continent, London and Paris, symbolic centers of the political duel that polarizes the fidelities of a warm peace. Sparks fly between these poles, and one cannot help regarding London’s victory as the triumph of Anglo-Saxon Euro-Atlanticism over the Franco-German ‘Old Europe’ that now flirts with Asia in order to distance itself from America. Blair’s regenerated leadership in the face of a Chirac and a Schröder beleaguered by expiry dates adorns the orator of Brussels and host of Edinburgh with the Olympic rings, giving him an additional aura that will drag the probable Sarkozy and Merkel in its wake, just as it has already lured Zapatero himself, whom the Herald Tribune pictures as veering toward the British premier: “it’s a better play for Zapatero to be called an opportunist than a loser”.

Darkened by the tragedy of the following day, the designation of London was backed by projects like the muscular stadium by Zaera & Moussavi (right) or the undulating aquatic center by Zaha Hadid (next page).

Of course London’s unexpected victory, personified by Coe and Beckham, has an ideological dimension that has blurred the visibility of Mayor Livingstone, although this is not to say that urban transformations are going to be of little significance. Centered on the functional and scenic recovery of a degraded zone in the eastern part of the city, the valley of the river Lea, a tributary of the Thames, and with secondary nuclei in both the Thames itself and the downtown area, these mutations of ecological flavor also reveal an immigrant and feminine architectural character. The park and Olympic stadium have been won in competition by the Spaniard Alejandro Zaera and the Iranian Farshid Moussavi using forms that are adequately or ironically muscular. And a large aquatic center will be built following the inevitably undulating project of the Iraqi Zaha Hadid. Based in London, fond of teaching and devoted to experimentation, the authors of the venues of the 2012 Olympics also share having been disciples of Rem Koolhaas, the most subversive figure of contemporary architecture and planning: the same person who called ‘Disneyland with capital punishment’ the Asian city-state where the final meeting of the Olympic Committee has been held, and that has been so favorable for them.

Committee has been held, and that has been so favorable for them. No matter how much the spectacle of Singapore is censured as a hermetic bidding among bureaucratic oligarchs, it is always stimulating to watch cities or states compete through the democratic choreographies of seduction or persuasion, which are always better than intimidation and force. In this they are faithful to the narcotic nature of mediatic sports, which replaces violent conflict with ritual struggle without avoiding the uncertainty of the result. A stubborn Madrid now embraces this laborious fortune with a shiny bronze that sounds like a bell and deserves more joy than tears and more jokes than scolding. Ready for the next race, we will look for the compass in the mist, and that strand of a breeze that will win the cup. A toast for the bronze.

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