Pau Gasol pitches Madrid as Olympic host
by Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY Sports
BUENOS AIRES –- When Pau Gasol walks into a room, he’s hard to miss. Even in a lobby of princes and princesses, sheikhs and counts who also happen to be IOC members, he’s treated like royalty. Olympic officials saddled up to him for a picture. One even stood on a chair to greet him at eye level.
The two-time NBA champ and two-time Olympic silver medalist is here to support Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics. On Saturday the IOC will choose between Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo.
All three cities have significant issues: Spain has been in recession for most of the past four years and has a 26.3% unemployment rate. Tokyo is dealing with concerns over the radioactive water leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Istanbul has the escalating civil war in neighboring Syria, plus a doping scandal.
All three cities have their strengths, of course, but only one has a global star giving its presentation. “We come here with great enthusiasm,” Gasol said Thursday. “We have made every effort and will make every effort to the last minute so Madrid will be the chosen candidate on Saturday.”
It’s Madrid’s third consecutive attempt for the Games. Istanbul is making its fifth overall bid and Tokyo is making its second consecutive run.”The fact that we’ve insisted in bidding, haven’t given up (shows commitment),” he said.
As a UNICEF ambassador, Gasol has seen how the Syrian civil war has impacted the region as millions have fled into neighboring countries. In July, Gasol visited refugees, mostly children, in Iraq.
“It’s a complex issue, but it goes beyond my knowledge and scope,” he said. “What I see is the impact on children and the millions forced to leave their homes and live as refugees. That’s what concerns me and touches me. I wish it could be solved without resorting to violence,” he said.
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