BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine Jose Zubiaur, one of the 13 members of Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s first International Olympic Committee in 1894, would no doubt have been thrilled to see his home city of Buenos Aires host the body’s 2013 congress.
Compatriot Gerardo Werthein, a current member of the IOC and president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, is the latest holder of that baton and a key mover in obtaining the 2018 Youth Olympic Games for his city.
“It fills us with pride that one of those members should have been Argentine,” Werthein said when Buenos Aires won the right to stage the third Youth Games.
“Jose Zubiaur was a teacher with two passions in life, sport and the education of young people,” said the 56-year-old Werthein, a qualified veterinarian who competed for many years in equestrian events.
Argentina has, nonetheless, fallen short in its four attempts to land the Olympic Games proper, the first in 1936 when they were awarded to Berlin.
Argentina lost out by one point to Melbourne in the voting for the 1956 Games, to Mexico for 1968 and most recently to Athens for 2004.
“Olympism is part of our culture and we’ve already presented four bids for the Olympic Games and each disappointment inspired us to work harder and better and never drops our heads,” Werthein said.
Buenos Aires, which lost out to Rio de Janeiro as the first South American city to stage the Games in 2016, is not in the race to hold the 2020 Games that reaches its climax here next week when Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo vie for the honour at the 125th IOC Session.
Also being put to the vote is the IOC presidency with Belgian Jacques Rogge, the eighth president in the long line going back to De Coubertin, stepping down.
Werthein’s city will no doubt try again one day for the Games and its holding of the IOC Executive Board meeting on September 4-5 and the IOC Session on September 7-10 is another step on the long road to achieving that goal.
Buenos Aires has the infrastructure and resources to hold Olympic disciplines along the so-called “Green Corridor”, a 3-km strip alongside the Rio de la Plata with the giant River Plate stadium as a centrepiece.
The mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, has said that thanks to the existing infrastructure the cost of staging the 2018 Youth Games amounts to less than one percent of the city’s annual budget.
“We have the unconditional backing and guarantees of both the city and the national government. This transcends politics and shows our total commitment,” said Macri, a political enemy of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose support was obtained by Werthein.
Macri, former president of leading soccer club Boca Juniors during their most successful era in the first decade of this century, said the Olympic Youth Village would cost $112.457 million and would afterwards be used as housing as “part of a plan that began two years ago”.
This is not included in the $104.690 million budget Buenos Aires submitted to the IOC, of which the city will foot $69 million with the rest being covered by the IOC, sponsors and ticket sales.
Macri, though, may not be the mayor any longer when the Youth Games are held since his present term in office ends in 2015. (Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ossian Shine)