Recently, it was my great privilege to be in Madrid to participate in the 2-day presentation ceremony for Spain’s 2018 Ryder Cup bid. We are designing the new course proposed for the event on a magnificent site at Tres Cantos, about 25 kilometres north of the city centre. It was exciting to be an active participant in such a high profile event. Think of the bid presentations you have seen for either the Olympics or the World Cup and you’ll have an idea of the extent of the trouble that the proud city of Madrid went to, to make the Ryder Cup committee of Richard Hills, Scott Kelly, David Maclaren, Edward Kitson and Gordon Simpson feel welcome. It was red carpet treatment from arrival to departure.
My event started on Wednesday morning, where I was picked up from Madrid airport by Juan Jose Abaitua, Madrid’s Bid Director. We went straight to the site at Tres Cantos, where we met Julián de Zulueta from the Spanish Golf Federation. Our task was to locate the greens and tees of the proposed course and put in flags and tee markers, in preparation for a site visit by the Ryder Cup committee the following morning. Followed closely by a troop of greenkeepers armed with strimmers, I marked the locations and within a couple of hours we had cut out all of the greens and tees we needed for the site tour. It is amazing how the addition of a solitary flag can suddenly give a site context and scale. No need to point vaguely into the distance. It was crystal clear what the course routing would be.
Then it was into Madrid to meet up with the bid team for a run through of the formal presentation to be made the following morning. After that it was time for a late dinner and a beer in the bar watching Fulham’s unsuccessful Europa league final against Atletico Madrid. As you can imagine, the locals were pleased with the result and the celebratory rasp of car horns split the cool night air from far and wide across the city until long after midnight.
Early next morning it was time to meet the Ryder Cup committee for the first time and to commence the formal bid presentation. Amongst others, I gave a short talk about the design project and introduced the brilliant computer generated fly through that navyblue had created from our design plans. We were off to a good start, but there was no time to dwell, as we were on a tight schedule. Into the official cars and off to Nuevos Ministerios station, where we all got onto the train to Tres Cantos. They had bedecked a carriage in the official livery of the bid, so we had to be on the right train! Just 25 minutes later and we were in Tres Cantos to be met by the town mayor. The site is just 500 metres from the station, so within minutes I was starting my main task of the event, which was to host the site tour. I gathered the group of 18 guests and officials in a semi-circle at the magnificent clubhouse site and talked them through the concept behind the course. We only had 45 minutes for the site tour, so I had pre-selected several key spots where we all got out of the fleet of 4×4’s and I explained further important features of the site. To be honest, we could have done with another half hour, but we all had to be back in Madrid by noon for the press launch.
I had to break off from the main group, to reprise the earlier introductory presentation for the benefit of the media, before rejoining the main congregation for the official presentation of the bid document, which was attended by several bid ambassadors, led by Seve Ballesteros, Miguel-Angel Jiminez, Miguel Martin and Iker Casillas, of Real Madrid. Whilst the Ryder Cup committee went to a formal lunch, myself and Juan Jose accompanied CNN back to Tres Cantos for a filmed interview. Whilst the Ryder Cup committee’s agenda continued into the evening with a tour of the Bernabeu Stadium and attendance of the Madrid Tennis Masters, myself and some of the bid team went out for a well deserved meal.
After breakfast the following morning, I joined the main party for a tour of the Torre Espacio, (the Space Tower), one of the tallest skyscrapers in Spain. The building is owned by OHL, the Spanish civil engineering and construction company, who hosted a presentation on the 52nd floor attended by Madrid’s private enterprise partners in support of the bid. To conclude, we all clambered up to the roof of the building, some 774-feet above the ground, for an incredible panorama of the city. For me, that was it. I went back to the airport, whilst the Ryder Cup committee’s visit continued with a trip to the Royal Palace for an audience with HRH The Prince of Asturius.
Madrid put on a tremendous show for the Ryder Cup committee. The support for the bid from Royalty, the government, private enterprise and the sporting authorities is rock solid and Seve’s leadership of the bid ambassadors is a great boost. It was good to see him looking so well. Add to this a fantastic site for the course, what we think is a great design, textbook event staging facilities and transport links and Madrid has a very compelling case to be awarded the 2018 Ryder Cup. We’ll be working hard to make sure that our part of the bargain is of the very highest quality. Exciting times ahead.