If the sayings are to be fulfilled, there is the WiZink Center as a beast of metal and concrete challenging the Phoenix: in 2001, it rose from its ashes after a voracious fire on its deck that left it reduced to rubble. The useful life of the Palacio de los Deportes could then have ended there, a mammoth Francoist construction inaugurated in 1960 that cost 56 million pesetas and hosted cycling, boxing, basketball, athletics, hockey, martial arts, gymnastics, trial, skating or hockey competitions for 40 years.

But no. In 2005 and 124 million euros later, Esperanza Aguirre and Gallardón cut the ribbon of the new building: bigger, more modern, more ambitious, at the height of a city that began to speak "face to face" to the rest of the capitals of the world. Today, the WiZink is, in terms of activity and ticket sales, the most important venue in Spain, the second in Europe (behind the O2 in London) and the fifth in the world.

"All the capitals have a multipurpose space with these characteristics, and Madrid is totally up to the task within its category." Pablo Gil, music journalist and head of Culture of EL MUNDO, speaks. "After the fire an acoustic study was made so that it could host concerts on a regular basis, and that is the origin of its current success."

On the struggle between the capital and Barcelona, Gil is clear: "The Palau Sant Jordi also sounds very good, and also allows to fit 2,000 or 3,000 more people, so it is normal that some larger concerts are held in Barcelona. But that should not worry us, nor do we have to fall into that somewhat absurd chauvinistic roll. The good thing is that Beyoncé goes once to Barcelona and the next to Madrid. Let there be diversity. Last year, for the first time in a long time, Madrid billed more in live music than Barcelona. What is very important for the spectator is that there are many concerts in Spain, because after a few years of suffering we are back on the map."

Several operators during the assembly of a concert.

Clarified then the struggle between the two main Spanish cities, we return to WiZink and its endless anecdote. If we take a look at Wikipedia, it is Maluma who holds the record for public attendance during his Papi Juancho Europe Tour 2022. There, for two consecutive days, 17,412 people hung the sign of no tickets on this multipurpose totem. Never before had so many people been inside the old Palace of Sports. Or so we thought until Manuel Saucedo, CEO and head of WiZink, unseats the Medellín with a new figure: "The record has just been broken by the singer Quevedo a few weeks ago: 17,453 spectators. He beat him by 40 people." Canary Islands 1-Colombia 0. So let us continue.

Only in 2022, C Tangana, Rosalía, Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, CAmilo, Harry Styles, the Backstreet Boys, Black Crowes... In the year that concerns us the list continues: Sabina, Alejandro Sanz, Arctic Monkeys, Hans Zimmer, Roger Walters, Andrea Bocelli.

And that's only in the musical field. Because WiZink doesn't live by concerts alone. Sports competitions, congresses, Cirque du Soleil... In 2022 the record of events was broken, with 182, and this year they expect to exceed 200. More challenges: celebrate the 1,000th concert. All this maremagnum of figures has a direct consequence on the economy. According to a study by KPMG, WiZink generates some 2,100 indirect jobs with its activity, and has an impact of 220 million euros on the GDP of the Community of Madrid.

-And how many people work to transform an ice rink into a Rosalía concert or a basketball court in just a few hours?

Up to 14 trucks fit on the track.

-If for example there are two concerts in a row, at four in the morning one comes out and at five the next is already entering the track, with the trailers, bringing the material. And we're talking about 13 or 14 trailers at once. The assembly time of the track is two or three hours, because at noon the sound checks begin. On an international tour, Rosalía, for example, has her own production team, which travels with her, and which will amount to 100 or 150 people. And on the day of the concert, or an event of that magnitude, we complete the staff with 80 production people, another 90 for assembly and disassembly, 70 for hospitality, another 70 for cleaning, 100 for security, access control ... In total, we are talking about 500 people.

Manuel Saucedo speaks of 14 trailers on average entering the central track to assemble, as in a perfectly oiled factory, the stage of one of these international concerts. However, the record is held by the almighty Lady Gaga. For his show in Madrid, he needed 43 of these high-tonnage trucks. And attention: eight were just to transport their wardrobe. You know: rather dead than simple.

The activity, then, hardly stops within the walls of the WiZink. Trailers miraculously maneuvering down the track, lighting technicians raising and lowering the folding roof, hundreds of kilometers of cable... "It has more activity at night than during the day, and right now there may be 200 people working on a piece-rate basis. It is almost never still, almost never empty," says its chief executive. The versatility of its facilities (the Estudiantes and the basketball section of Real Madrid C. F. play their matches on this court) means that it has a variable audience capacity depending on its activity: 10,000 spectators for athletics (with a six-lane track), 12,000 for handball, 13,600 for basketball, more than 15,000 for concerts.

Basketball is another of the classics of the venue.

Security is, of course, one of the main obsessions of this enclosure that has 70 access doors. And nothing can fail when it comes to evacuating the public. "An eviction at the end of a concert or a match takes place, at most, in 10 minutes," explains Saucedo. "But if it were an evacuation in a risky situation, in the drills we have done it has not taken more than 6 minutes." In its multipurpose vocation, even in the worst weeks of the Covid pandemic the WiZink became a vaccinódromo. "We were idle and offered ourselves to the Ministry of Health of the Community," recalls Saucedo. "We put in 1.6 million doses."

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

-Maybe the ice rink. Because to mount it we put water. But to remove it... You can't wait for it to melt. We had to remove it with blows.

There have been so many stars who have left their talent in the old Palacio de los Deportes, which has a Wall of Fame with their signatures. In this pantheon for mythomaniacs, next to the dressing rooms, more than 400 rubrics form a fascinating gallery of illustrious in which just a couple of names are missing: Justin Bieber and Danny Ocean. We will have to wait for your next visit. And it is that international singers accumulate a long history of anecdotes and whims with which a thousand books could be written. Serve this appetizer: Luis Miguel, the Sun of Mexico, established by contract that no one could look him in the eye; Elton John asked for a wheelchair; Maluma always travels with a ping pong table and plays before going on stage; Rihanna asked for a local manicure specialist; Maroon 5 are raw foodists and travel with their own chef...

The folding roof has the highest technology.

-And the jacuzzi and Justin Bieber?

"Well, all I'm saying is that if you ask for it, at least use it, right?" -says Saucedo.

-Did you ask for it for the dressing room and did not use it? Anyway, if you are able to set up an ice rink, what is a jacuzzi?

-The artists, in their contracts, have a section with their needs. And those needs can be from a bottle of wine of such a brand and such a year to a beautician, or the prohibition of selling pork food throughout the enclosure ... Or even bring their own chef.

Star minutiae. And, who has not asked to pass a little more hake fillet?

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