Mr President of the Spanish Olympic Committee; Mr Minister for Education, Culture and Sport; ladies and gentlemen; dear friends,
At the start of his speech just now, Mr Alejandro Blanco expressed gratitude for my presence and that of the minister here today at a time of such difficulty for our country, a time when we have many commitments and a lot of work to do, doing both everything possible, as well as the impossible, to overcome this situation.
I would just like to say it is an honour for me to be here. It is hard for me to think of a more wonderful event and hard to imagine myself attending a more wonderful event during my time as President of the Government of Spain than this one I am enjoying here this afternoon.
I should add that I am going to apply, and the Government is already applying, exactly the same recipe, the same medicine, to overcome this tough situation as applied by our athletes in what they do; i.e. hard work, effort, dedication and perseverance.
It is often the case when an athlete is injured, and you know this far better than I do, that many things need to be done. Recovery is hard and one loses hope sometimes, but those feelings are immediately overcome. That is precisely what we are going to do ourselves: work hard, make an effort, dedicate ourselves and do our very best to overcome this situation.
First of all, I would like to congratulate all the Spanish athletes, all the technical staff, the presidents of federations and the Olympic Committee before you head off to London. I know, and I would like to say this to everyone in Spain, that we sometimes think of athletes as people who appear on television, winning something or simply there trying to achieve or actually achieving great results. However, the truth behind that, something that is perhaps not revealed to the extent it should be, is that none of it, if you'll excuse the expression, is given to you on a plate. Behind those achievements lies a great deal of work, enormous effort, much dedication, probably some unpleasant times, and numerous sacrifices of course; the sacrifice of many things that would not be required of someone outside of the world of sport.
Alejandro Blanco said in his speech that I am a great fan of sport. I am and I have been for many years. I remember the Olympics - I was living in Leon at the time and probably none of you here will remember them although you've probably read about them in the papers - in Mexico City, in 1968. I remember that famous long jump of 8.90 metres, which was later beaten; I remember that new style of high jump, Fosbury I think it was, who jumped 2.28 metres - high for the day.
Back then, Spanish sport was not at the level we are fortunately enjoying today. We are currently experiencing some magnificent performances. We have some exceptional athletes in Spain who are greatly admired. I would even say they are envied, I would hope with a healthy form of envy although certain things done by certain people to certain athletes are starting to make me doubt that.
But it's all the product of many things: firstly, the talent of our athletes; secondly, and above all, something that is essential in any facet of life: hard work and effort. Without hard work, without effort, without pride and without perseverance, one could have all the talent in the world but achieve absolutely nothing.
I also want to say that the organisation of Spanish sport has also improved in recent years, both at the clubs, which do an excellent job at a grass-root level, and at the Federations themselves, such as the Olympic Committee itself. The sponsors and the public authorities have also made a great effort. Right now, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, you know that this is more difficult, but, given that we will overcome these circumstances, I am absolutely convinced that the sponsors will have, and already do have, intelligence enough to know the best way to sell their products, help a country and, what's more, do justice.
We are currently working on a new law that the President of the IOC is aware of and that we have been forced to delay in light of the current situation. However, rest assured that the Sponsorship Act will soon come to light and I hope it will help improve our athletes and help Spanish sport in general.
A great number of people will be watching the Olympic Games. This will be helped by the fact that they are held in the summer, when many people will have the good fortune to be resting and spending many hours in front of the television, watching what you get up to. Whatever happens, they will be pleased because the most important thing is that you have arrived, that you're there and that you're going to take part in the Games. The results themselves will depend on many factors, on how inspired you are on the day, even on good or bad luck to some extent, and even perhaps something unforeseen.
However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that Spain is represented by some great athletes who have risen to the challenge, who have made great efforts and who have the support and affection of an entire country behind them.
You spoke before about the values of sport and it is true: a society must build itself and its foundations on values. The more values a society has, the better that society will do, both personally and even economically. If its people make an effort, work hard and don't cheat, if they are dedicated, focused, spirited and proud, they will do much better themselves and that will help the whole country do better.
I will repeat what I said at the beginning: I congratulate you for being here and I wish you the very best with all my heart, as does everybody else in Spain. We are absolutely sure that we will continue to be proud of all of you and we are absolutely convinced that Spain will once again be where it should be: always rising to the challenge of circumstance.
Thank you very much for coming. Thank you.