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Madrid stunned by failure to land 2020 Games

By Rex Gowar

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The Madrid delegation were left reeling on Saturday by the shock of their early elimination as host for the 2020 summer Olympics and defended their bid presentation as "the best" of the candidate cities.

There was a deathly hush in the bar where officials gathered to await the result of the International Olympic Committee's head-to-head vote that eliminated the Spanish capital following a first-round tie with Istanbul.

The third bidder, Tokyo, was later awarded the Games.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, under fire for a severe recession in Spain and 25 percent unemployment, stopped short of pledging another Olympic bid after three successive failures, but said the government would "offer even more support if necessary to Spanish sport."

"Our country will carry on because it has shown a capacity to overcome difficult odds," he told a news conference.

"Now what we can do is continue to look ahead because Spain is a top level sports power and there are many sports in which we have triumphed.

"I think Madrid is a city that was ready. A great effort was made but in life you win sometimes and lose others."

Prince Felipe, whose impressive speech to close Madrid's presentation had boosted the delegation's confidence, said: "The king and queen shared in our initial hopes and sadness at the result.

"I´m grateful for the magnificent job Madrid did.

"With a significant proportion of the sporting infrastructure already built and in place, there is, still, a huge positive impact to be acknowledged," Felipe, the bid's honorary president, said.

"Our efforts over the past 12 years will not be wasted, in that the people and youth of Madrid will still continue to benefit and enjoy an Olympic legacy from established venues to transport systems, so whilst the race for 2020 is lost, the future of sport in Spain will continue positively."

SPANISH TEARS

Members of the large Spanish contingent were in tears when they emerged from the bar onto the streets of the redeveloped port area of the Argentine capital on a grey, rainy afternoon.

"We believe the result bears no relation to the way (our presentation) was made. A decision like that is based on other criteria," Spain's education minister Jose Ignacio Wert told reporters.

"Everyone who attended the presentations of the three rival cities today can be in no doubt Madrid's was the best."

Madrid had been confident of success after narrowly missing out on the 2012 and 2016 Games.

Fencer Jose Luis Pirri echoed Wert's comments and suggested tactical voting had eliminated the Spanish capital.

"We expected to be in the final with Tokyo but it's obvious they didn't want us in the final because Madrid would have been very strong," said Pirri.

"It's a strange decision. Madrid has deserved to hold the Games for a long time and on top of that we are out in the first round, it's quite absurd."

NBA basketball player and Olympic silver medal winner Pau Gasol, a figurehead of the bid, could not hide his disappointment.

"There are factors we don't control, that only (the IOC members) know about. It's a shame because we were confident and had a good feeling," Gasol said.

"I don't think our work has been duly recognised in this instance."

Enrique Cerezo, president of top soccer club Atletico Madrid, said: "I think it's unfair Madrid should have been eliminated at the first turn. It looks to me like the system is very badly designed."

(Additional reporting by Damian Perez; editing by Tony Jimenez and Ian Ransom)

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