Spanish prosecutors taking a look at Ponferrada books

Politicians are demanding legal action after 2014 worlds goes over budget, is beset with accusations of corruption and bribery

Spanish prosecutors are opening an investigation into the financing of last year’s UCI world road cycling championships held in Ponferrada, Spain. Spanish media outlets revealed the news this week based on an official communiqué released by prosecutors.

Local political parties have been pressing for legal action since the small hamlet in northwest Spain hosted the weeklong road worlds last September, and more than 100 local citizens have signed a petition. Many are angry that local officials spent millions on the one-time event when regional governments are being forced to reduce services on such issues as health and education.

Though the event was well-organized and the racing was at a high level, attendance was well below expectations, causing major budget shortfalls.

There have been previous reports that last year’s worlds ran over-budget by millions of euros, when local officials could not find enough sponsorship money to underwrite the estimated 15 million euro price tag.

Spanish media also reported the local mayor tried to stymie earlier efforts to investigate a possible budget deficit that could be as high as 8 million euros, prompting the latest round of legal action.

If prosecutors determine there is enough evidence, they could move forward with formal charges of embezzlement, misconduct in public office, and bribery. It’s unclear if the allegations are limited to just the administration by the local officials.

The Ponferrada worlds project was beset with problems from the outset, and only final-hour efforts by the national government and the Spanish cycling federation helped local organizers pull together the event.

The 2015 UCI world championships are set to be held in the United States in September for the first time in more than 25 years in Richmond, Virginia.