Trio of cities in final push to win 2020 Olympic Games
Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo make last pleas ahead of this evening’s committee vote
Turkey minister of youth and sports Suat Kilic speaks to the media . Photograph: Halleran/Getty Images
Tokyo governor and chairman of Tokyo 2020 bid Naoki Inose gestures during a presentation before the International Olympic Committee today. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images
Young gymnasts from Vallecas outside Madrid stretch as they pose for photographs before performing infront of the International Olympic Committee today. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters
After two years of intense lobbying and tens of millions of dollars spent, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are making their final pleas to the International Olympic Committee to entrust them with the 2020 summer Games.
With each city wrestling its own demons, the race has become a “least ugly” contest as they attempt to conceal their blemishes and win the right to host the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza.
The trio are presenting their bids to the some 100 members of the IOC. Ninety-seven are eligible to vote in the first round, due to start at 3.45pm local time (6.45 GMT).
Istanbul was the first to take to the floor, making an impassioned plea to the IOC saying the games would help to bring peace to the troubled region.
The IOC has never awarded the Olympics to a predominately Muslim country but Istanbul’s bid team, which included prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged the IOC members to break with tradition and vote for Istanbul.
“We live at a time when our region and the world crave for peace and at this critical moment we would like to send a strong message of peace to the whole world,” Mr Erdogan told the IOC.
He flew 16 hours through the night to get to Buenos Aires so he could personally address the IOC after spending the past few days at the G20 Summit in Russia.
Istanbul leaned heavily on its unique position in the world, straddling two continents, Europe and Asia.
The bid team based its 45-minute presentation on the theme of bridging, not just geographically, but also socially, culturally and religiously, saying it was an ideal that fitted the IOC’s own ideals.
“We would like to unite the continents in Istanbaul in just the same way as the Olympic rings brings us together in unity and solidarity,” the presentation said.
The bid team highlighted the country’s surging economy and the government‘s commitment to the Games and pledged a crackdown on doping after a recent increase in positive tests by Turkish athletes.
Prince Felipe of Spain will be part of Madrid’s official presentation. IOC members will then hear a report from an internal Evaluation Commission formed of IOC members and Olympic experts, before voting begins.
No clear favourite
Should a city not obtain an outright majority of votes, the candidate with the least votes will be eliminated and the two remaining cities will go head to head in a second round.
With no clear favourite, the decision will likely hinge on the appeal of the bid presentations as each city attempts to gloss over troubles at home.
Publicly, the membership of the IOC is smiling through the crisis, but privately many concede that this is now an exercise in evaluating risk rather than celebrating sport.
Tokyo has been considered a slight favourite but has been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign amid mounting concerns about the Fukushima leak.
Madrid is pitching a manageable, low-cost, financially responsible Games. It is a bid that should play well with the IOC, which wants to reduce the cost of staging an Olympics.
The Spanish officials say that with much of the infrastructure already in place, it will be the first time a projected Games budget of some $3.1 billion exceeds investment of just under $2 billion in projects linked to the hosting of the event but not directly related.
Istanbul has a massive non-Games budget of around $17 billion, dwarfing expected Games expenditure of $2.9 billion. Tokyo, which hosted the Games in 1964, is also planning to incorporate existing venues and has estimated a non-Games budget of around $4.4 billion compared to $3.4 billion for the actual event.
The Tokyo bid team points to a $4.5 billion war chest already in the bank, with further support as needed promised by the government. “The Games are in a safe pair of hands,” Tsunekazu Takeda, head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said.