By David Eade
As I write this the great and good of Spanish life as well as the international sports community have gathered in Barcelona to pay homage to Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former president of the International Olympic Committee.
Samaranch died on Tuesday in a Barcelona hospital aged 89. He has been described as a master of negotiation, persuasion and behind-the-scenes diplomacy during his 21 years at the helm of the IOC. His remains rested at the Catalan parliament before being taken on Thursday to Barcelona’s cathedral. Plenty will be singing his praises at his funeral. The Spanish heir to the throne, the Príncipe de Asturias, Felipe de Borbón described him as a “colossus of the modern Olympics” and “firmly loyal to the Crown”.
However he was also a divisive figure in both Spanish politics, especially for those on the left, and in wider international sport. As I started penning this I received an email via Facebook asking me to support a call to not have Samaranch honoured with a minute’s silence at Barcelona’s Camp Nou soccer stadium.
Yet he is a hero to many in Barcelona. It was Samaranch who brought the 1992 Olympics to his hometown. However his attempts to do the same for Madrid failed miserably. He tried to help Madrid secure the 2012 and 2016 games. Madrid finished third behind winner London and Paris for the 2012 Olympics and second to Rio de Janeiro for 2016.
Samaranch spoke during Madrid’s presentation in Copenhagen last year asking the IOC to send the games to the Spanish capital as a parting gift for this old man in his final days. “Dear colleagues, I know that I am very near the end of my time,” Samaranch said. The IOC ignored his plea.
Andrew Jennings has written several books about the IOC. He has no doubt about his feelings on Samaranch: “He was a very bad man. He nearly destroyed the Olympics. We didn’t need all that money in sport. It created this imperial world where he had to get lots of money to maintain his excellencies (the IOC members) touring the world."
Samaranch has also been condemned for serving the Franco dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s – before his appointment to the IOC he was Spain’s ambassador to Russia. Samaranch claims he had only a modest role as director general of sports and parliamentary leader of the Falangist movement. I doubt whether the leader of the Falange in parliament was ever modest.
Anna Simó, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya spokesperson in the Spanish parliament said the party never had any sympathy for him because of his past links to the Franco regime. Ernest Benach of the same party only spoke in a very brief statement of his sadness for the family. The ICV, linked to the far left Izquierda Unida, avoided offering any words of praise at all.
The major scandal that overshadowed his term in office led to the ousting of 10 IOC members for accepting cash, scholarships and other inducements from Salt Lake City representatives bidding for the 2002 Winter Games.
When Samaranch came to power 29 years ago, the IOC was virtually bankrupt, the Olympics were battered by boycotts and terrorism and few cities wanted to host the games. When he left his post, the IOC’s coffers were full with billions of dollars in commercial revenues, the boycotts were over, cities around the world were fighting each other furiously for the games, and the Olympics were firmly established as the world’s major sporting festival. True – but the rumours of corruptions hang over his legacy like a funeral pall.
(The above article appeared in Panorama)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
By David Eade
The mayor of the Andalucía town of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, has returned to attack the Spanish monarch, King Juan Carlos, and has repeated his accusation that he is corrupt.
The Izquierda Unida politician is a constant thorn in the king’s side and one might take the view that the Spanish monarch would by now ignore his words of venom. However last year Barroso was fined 6,840 euros in a Madrid court after a case was brought against him for “serious injury” against Juan Carlos.
The remarks that caused the stir were made by Barroso in a speech to celebrate the Third Republic made in Los Barrios. He accused the monarch of being “corrupt”, having “enriched himself illegally” and added some unflattering remarks on the morality of his father adding like father, like son.
As a Briton living in Spain I have my private views on the Spanish Royal Family and the monarch in general. However they remain that – private – because I believe that whether Spain is a monarchy or a republic is for Spanish people to decide.
None the less over the last year I have expressed one specific thought in writing on Barroso and the King. I firmly believe that Barroso has the right to state his honestly held views on the monarchy and the family of King Juan Carlos. It’s called freedom of speech.
If the monarch feels that Barroso has overstepped the mark, if he finds he cannot turn the other cheek, then of course he is free to take the matter to court. If that is the case then it should be a legal action brought by and paid for by the monarch. When Barroso was brought before a judge it was on behalf of the Spanish State which means that I and other tax payers in this country footed the bill for the King.
Now the secretary general of the Communist Party in Andalucía, José Manuel Mariscal, has spoken out in Barroso’s support after he repeated he recently repeated his remark in Algeciras. Mariscal stated: “Barroso can be very expressive, but he tells truths with his fists.”
It was certainly a combative speech by Barroso who was a guest speaker at a meeting held by the local communist party in the plaza de la Constitución where the Republican flag was raised. He shared the platform with Inmaculada Nieto, the leader of Izquierda Unida in the governing coalition at Algeciras town hall, her fellow IU councillors and the town’s former communist mayor Paco Esteban.
Barroso told the audience: “In the distance is heard a lackey’s and courtesan’s voice that cries Viva España, Viva el Rey. And from here we answer – Long live the people of the Spanish Republic. And death to all that the King represents that is corruption, and rotten. Ultimately, all that is despicable that a caste of his nature represents. Yes Viva España Republicana and death to all that the King represents and signifies.”
José Barroso continued that “in a society that is unable to admit, perhaps because it doesn’t known or it doesn’t want to know, that the Constitution of 78, is a constitution absolutely undemocratic, it shields the interests of the undesirable, of the major delinquent that exists in this country who answers to the name of Juan Carlos I of Borbón.”
Staying with matters royal the Partido Comunista is organising a petition to be presented to the Spanish Parliament – Congreso de los Diputados – demanding transparency in the accounts of the Royal household. Marsical said it was “unusual” that the King “does not explain how he spends the budget he receives from the State, that is around 10 million euros a year. Whilst he does not declare his spending there will be suspicions.”
By the by, if my figures are correct, the British monarch currently receives 7.9 million pounds a year from the Civil List compared with the 10 million euros for King Juan Carlos. The Civil List is due for review after the General Election as the figure was set in 2000 with Queen Elizabeth II pressing for a major increase. Both sums should give ample food for thought for monarchists and republicans.
(The above article appeared in Panorama)
Saturday, April 10, 2010
By David Eade
When I first came to Spain nearly 20 years ago I had an occasional coffee in a nice café-restaurant facing on to the main square in Fuengirola. It had an interior patio and was a marked change to the greasy spoons of my home town, London. After a year or so the café suddenly closed. That surprised me but what shocked me was to learn that many of the staff had not been paid for nearly a year.
It was my first introduction to the very different labour laws in Spain where those employees on fixed contracts cannot be suddenly fired even if they are not paid. Indeed as long as they turn up for work their contract is binding with the unpaid workers having statutory rights if the company is eventually wound-up.
Over the years this kind of scenario has become more commonplace especially in the current economic crisis. However one of the most celebrated of these cases involves Los Monteros hotel in Marbella.
Los Monteros became a tourism symbol for the Costa del Sol as it was the first five-star luxury hotel opening its doors in 1964. Now some might argue that the closure of a jet set hotel is no loss at all. On the contrary - the fact the establishment has closed its doors has no impact whatsoever on the well heeled – they simply follow the money to another exotic location. Those who suffer are such as Ana María Díaz who works in the laundry and has been at the hotel since 1974. Or Antonio Guil who has been the maintenance man for 36 years. Or Jerónimo Torres, the head barman, who started out learning his trade at the hotel in 1971 at the age of 16. It is they and the other 180 current employees of the hotel that are the victims.
It was back in November 2008 that I first wrote about Los Monteros because then Lebanese owner Mohamed Reda Bahige Alaywan had not paid his workers for two months. Nor did there seem to be any funding for the improvements so badly needed by this top-notch hotel. However within days the plight of the employees and the future of the hotel seemed to have turned around. In stepped the Russian company Northwest Oil but it was bad news not good.
Rather than put the hotel back on its feet, giving the employees their back wages whilst ensuring their future Northwest Oil took a very different route. This created the suspicion the purchase was nothing more than a property speculation strategy – a strategy that soon went wrong. Marbella town hall quickly moved to block any rezoning of the land on the valuable coastline site for urban development requiring it to be for hotel use only.
Since June 4 2009 the hotel has not been open to guests. The director, Ernest Malyshev, did declare Los Monteros open for a while but as there was no power or water guests could have not run the taps in their rooms, had a meal or turned on a light. This ploy to be technically open to guests was carried out in the hope of avoiding Andalucía government and court sanctions.
So what is the situation now? The president of the committee of the business (that speaks for the employees), José Osorio, believes the hotel owes more than 57 million euros to the Spanish tax and social security agencies. In addition some 400 claims have been made in the Málaga mercantile court against the companies Northwest Oil established to run the hotel and hold its assets. Furthermore around 250 families who depended on the hotel for their incomes have had their lives ruined because they have received no pay for 16 or more months nor have they been eligible for the dole as technically these wage earners are still employed.
So who is to blame? Northwest Oil certainly but Osorio and the CC.OO union representative Lola Villalba also point their fingers at Marbella town hall, the Andalucía government and the Andalucía ombudsman who they believe should have taken firmer action. Bitterly the workers talk of how all the politicians turned out to have their photographs taken on the pick line but then did nothing else to help them.
And the future? An administrator appointed by the court now controls the hotel. The manager Salvador Ríos, who along with his employees have stuck to their posts, insists it is ready to open its doors within 15 days largely because they all have ensured the building has been maintained – at their expense. They have also occupied the hotel to ensure the furnishings, fittings and assets were not stripped. The most likely course is that the hotel will be sold. The employees as creditors can only hope this will see their outstanding salaries paid and their future employment guaranteed. Sadly we could still be many months off a conclusion and in the meantime they are euroless.
(The above article appeared in the Morning Star in April)