PARIS: The race to host the 2020 Summer Olympics threatens to be a cliffhanger between Tokyo and Istanbul a source close to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said with just under a year to go to the vote.
The source said the 100-plus IOC members face an unenviable choice when they vote in Buenos Aires on September 7 next year in what will be the final host city decision taken under the presidency of Jacques Rogge, whose successor is elected on September 10.
The source said Madrid, the third candidate, was not a realistic option given the prevailing economic crisis in Spain, though praised it for its tenacious refusal to give up the ghost and the fact a lot of the stadia were already in place.
However, both Istanbul and Tokyo hold a great advantage over Madrid in the IOC’s eyes in terms of leaving a legacy — a factor crucial to many IOC members.
Voting for Istanbul would see the Games go to a city renowned for being the bridge where East meets West or Europe meets Asia and would be the first Games hosted by a country with a predominantly Muslim population.
A vote for Tokyo — the only one of the three candidates to have previously hosted the Games in 1964 — would be seen as giving the country a significant boost just two years after the quake-tsunami disaster which left about 19,000 people dead or missing.
“Tokyo would still be ahead as there are no worries about their ability to complete the work required on time and with the financing of the Games,” said the source.
“Plus there are many IOC members who are swayed by voting for them because they see it as a way of helping the process of rebuilding the Japanese people’s morale and giving them something to look forward to and a goal to achieve.
“Istanbul on the other hand has steadily built up momentum, it has somehow managed to ride out the storm over also bidding to host the Euro 2020 championship (under IOC rules no country can host another major championship in the same year), and has serious appeal.
“For the IOC members there is an important legacy to be had by voting Istanbul bridging two cultures and two religions in what is one of the fastest growing economies and a significant powerbroker politically.” Both Tokyo — who finished third behind Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games with Madrid finishing second — and Istanbul bid committees issued optimistic rallying calls with the vote a year away.
“Excitement and momentum are building as we enter this final year of our bid to welcome the world to Tokyo in 2020,” said Japanese IOC member and president of the bid Tsunekazu Takeda.
“We have strong backing across all levels of Japanese society. We are a cohesive team underpinned by a deep national passion for sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.” Kadir Topba, the Mayor of Istanbul, said this was their best ever bid after four previous failed attempts and the city was ready to meet all the requirements needed to host the Games.
“Our nation’s desire to bring the Games to Turkey for the first time in our history has never been greater,” he said.
“Just as importantly, Istanbul’s capacity to realize our vision has never been greater.
“Now our city is ready to host the first Games in Olympic history to span two continents at once — to reach across the Bosphorus and bridge east and west, new and old, rich history and united future.”