Devil in the detail for city hopefuls of hosting 2020 Olympics
After years of hard work and extensive lobbying, Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid are soon to find out which takes gold
Fireworks light up the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
In turn it hasn’t always been tangible why a city would wish to burden their citizens with a spend of €2.19 billion, €2.58 billion, or €2.27 billion as Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid, in the IOC’s evaluation report from April this year, have agreed to do for the 2020 Olympics. And those figures do not include capital spending on building arenas.
The true cost for London to reinforce its reputation as a global player in 2012 has been muddled as infrastructure that needed to be built anyway, with the final numbers coming in at about €10.45 billion.
The logical why of it all often seems lost in the kudos and frenzied desire to host the grandest of the sporting set pieces. Not art, but certainly a cultural, economic and social event, each of the remaining three city bids reach directly to the heart of the ruling governments in Turkey, Japan and Spain.
More of a Rose of Tralee than a Miss World, the bid process is partly beauty contest but also pragmatic can-do and the sense that the event will run trouble-free goes to the heart of IOC demands. And there are many of those
The three candidate cities must guarantee air quality, positive public opinion and equality for paralympic athletes. They must have 40,000 rooms available and embrace Olympic law, which enjoys separate legal status to that of the state. They must accept a legal agreement that allows IOC tax exempt status, while the government of the country will underwrite every cost – from security and transport to accommodation.
The IOC contribute €597 million and €253 million from their sponsors, the the Olympic partner programme. The main thing the Olympic movement cannot afford to lose is face or damage to the brand image of the five golden rings.
Already bookmakers have placed Tokyo as the favourites at 1/2, Istanbul 3/1 and Madrid 5/1 as IOC members gather in Argentina capital Buenos Aires before next weekend’s vote. The 103 eligible delegates will decide on the city. And while Tokyo is odds-on favourite , the process and intense lobbying that develops in the run-up to the decision has a history of burning front runners.
Seven years ago Singapore felt the full weight of British prime minister Tony Blair and wife Cherie, who personally met with as many IOC members as they could over three days of frenetic canvassing. That 12th-hour campaign was instrumental in swinging the vote away from favourites Paris as French president Jacques Chirac arrived late, having prioritised a G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Any influence applied
Blair illustrated that despite bid quality, IOC members can be swayed by prime ministers and celebrity lobbyists. When South Africa was running for the 2008 games Nelson Mandela arrived in Lausanne to advocate on behalf of the cause. Sweden had flown in tennis player Bjorn Borg, while soccer’s David Beckham was the poster boy of Britain’s campaign. Any influence, anywhere is used.
“At this moment the three cites are very close and they all have positives and negatives,” says a senior IOC official this week. “It will come down to the last three days of lobbying. Like Singapore, when London was bidding, the last day won them the games. The fact that Madrid and Istanbul are European cities won’t matter. We had Beijing in 2008 and most of the big events over the next few years are being staged in, Asia including the Youth Olympics and the Winter Olympics in Korea in two years’ time.”