By Duncan Mackay

Jacques Rogge with Alejandro Blanco COE Centenary December 12 2012December 12 - Alejandro Blanco, the head of Madrid's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, today predicted an exciting future for the Olympic Movement in the country as its National Olympic Committee celebrated its centenary.

Blanco, who is also President of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), hosted a special event at the Teatros del Canal before an audience including Prince Felipe, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and some of the country's most successful athletes.

Spanish Olympic Committee centenary celebration Madrid December 12 2012Spain's IOC members José Perurena (left). Marisol Casado (second left) and Juan Antonio Samaranch (far right) take part in the centenary celebrations along with Prince Felipe de Borbón (third left) honorary IOC member Infanta Doña Pilar de Borbón (third right)  and COE President Alejandro Blanco (second right)

"Great works of men are measured in centuries," Blanco told the audience.

"The COE is a 100 years young and we think the best is yet to be fulfilled.

"Today we pay homage to history.

"We have passed from a weak Spain to a country that is a nursery of champions."

Spain first participated at the Olympics at Paris in 1900 when Jose de Amezola y Azpizua and Francisco Villota won gold in pelota - the only time the sport has featured in the Games - beating the only other entrants, a French pair.

But Spain did not make another appearance at the Olympics until Antwerp in 1920 following the formation of COE in 1912.

They have participated in every Games since apart from Berlin in 1936, which coincided with the start of the Spanish Civil War, and Melbourne in 1956, which they boycotted because of the Sovet Union invasion of Hungary.

A total of 3,312 athletes have represented Spain at the Olympics, with 115 of them winning a total of 132 medals.

Spain's most successful sport has been sailing, producing a total of 19 medals, 13 of them gold.

It was a record that they maintained at London 2012 where sailors claimed two of Spain's three gold medals, Marina Alabau winning the women's sailboard and the team of Támara Echegoyen, Ángela Pumariega and Sofía Toro the Elliot 6m.

Among those attending today's special event was Theresa Zabell, who won the gold medal in the 470 class at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta four years later.

Theresa Zabell win at Atlanta in 1996Theresa Zabell (left) and Begona Via Dufresne celebrate winning the Olympic gold medal in women's 470 class at Atlanta 1996

Zabell is now the international relations chief executive of Madrid's bid to bring the Games back to the country for only the second time in its history.

"It's a great honour for me that the centenary coincides with my Presidency," said Blanco.

"But the event also servedas a tribute to all my predecessors and all the athletes who have for so many years and through such great effort ensured that the Spanish flag has flown at the highest level in the world of sport."

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