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
Also on next weekend’s agenda is a vote for the replacement for incumbent IOC president Jacques Rogge and what sport will be included in the 2020 programme, from wrestling, baseball/softball and squash. One thing is certain and that is public perception doesn’t always run parallel with IOC thinking.
The only candidate in the presidential race, who is widely known, is former polevault world-record holder and Olympic champion, Sergei Bubka. He’s not considered a front runner, with Germany’s Tomas Bach the warm favourite to take over from Rogge.
“In choosing the city for 2020, personal choices will come down to politics as well as the best lobbying,” says the IOC official. “And people will look back to Britain on that one, when they pulled off their great stroke when Blair worked his ass off. The public would certainly know Sergei Bubka more than any of the other presidential candidates. But the public don’t have any votes and that’s what this process comes down to.”
Tokyo a warm order
The Japanese capital, the only one of the three cities that has staged the Olympics before, in 1964, is widely seen as a no-risk decision and that brings its own comforts. The infrastructure and communication networks are typically top end Japanese with their logo “Discover Tomorrow” hammering home the point of modern, functional and organised. It’s also compact, with 85 per cent of the competition venues within an 8km radius of the athletes’ Olympic Village, or, a 20 minute journey.
“Yes, they are a safe bet,” says the IOC official. “Tokyo would be good for the (Olympic) movement. But latterly their nuclear problems in the north of the country after the earthquake have been a talking point among the IOC members. They are asking ‘Is it under control’?”
For a city like Istanbul that straddles Europe and Asia, success would be a significant demonstration of maturity and confidence. It would allow Turkey to become the first secular Muslim country to host the event.
That 42 per cent of the population are under 25 would also please IOC thinking. An opening ceremony that promises a spectacle of 70,000 seated and another 500,000 spectators along the shores of the Bosporus is, however, countered by unrest in the country.
In May of this year prime minister Recep Erdogan denied he was a dictator following heavy-handed military tactics used against demonstrating civilians. He may have damaged his country’s bid.
“We did not use fists against the fists, but from now on, our law enforcement will act in a different manner. We don’t need anyone from abroad to teach us what to do . . . The lobby of the money-lenders is acting as well,” he said.
There would be some within in the IOC who would find that offensive.
“Istanbul and the recent demonstrations in that country, they are recovering from that,” said the IOC Official diplomatically.
Where 70 per cent of the venues need to be built in Istanbul, Madrid has the vast majority of the infrastructure in place. The city seeks to demonstrate that the Olympic Games can be organised with low financial investment without compromising the delivery of a high-quality Olympic experience. Madrid is motivated by the belief that the games would act as a stimulus for much-needed economic development and employment.