JOHN GOODBODY: Will Tokyo find itself being the only candidate city for the 2020 Olympics?
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
October 2 - When London got the 2012 Summer Games, it faced the stiffest of opposition from rival candidates. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) could scarcely contain its pleasure when the other short-listed candidates were such well-known cities as Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow, places not only with sporting pedigree but also having the ability to underwrite the cost of the Games.
Similarly, when Rio de Janeiro got the 2016 Olympics, the other contenders were: Chicago, which despite being backed by President Obama still went out in the first round; Madrid, the only capital of a major European city never to have hosted the Summer Games; and Tokyo, who last held the Games in 1964. This was only a slightly less embarrassment of choice, with the IOC opting for the huge potential of Brazil, a country of almost 200 million people.
However, for 2020, things are now looking very different, with the candidates already reduced to Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. When the decision was made to short-list these cities, it seemed a reasonable field, if lacking the options, in numbers as well as variety, of the two previous contests.
There are increasing concerns about two of these cities. Spain has huge financial problems and may be obliged to seek a bail-out from other members of the European Union. What has made this situation particularly noticeable in sport is that the International Cycling Union (UCI) may be forced to take away the 2014 World Cycling Championships because the host city, Pontferrada,is struggling to raise the $6.6 million guarantee for the competition.
The deadline expires later this month and, if the money cannot be obtained, then the UCI will look elsewhere. The question must then be: how can Spain, which has been unable to underwrite such a small amount for the World Cycling Championships, give the IOC the necessary guarantees in the bid book for the 2020 Olympics when it is submitted in January?
The difficulty with Istanbul is different. Turkey wants to host the 2020 European Football Championship, which would be scheduled to take place in June, only a few days before the Games would open. Michel Platini, the President of Uefa, the European governing body, made his view clear when he said this week that it would not be “logical” for such a scenario to take place.
He denied giving an ultimatum to Turkey, a country where football is easily the most popular sport, but clearly the Istanbul authorities are not helping their case for either event by not committing themselves to one or the other. No country has ever staged both in the same year.
Although he would be keen for Turkey to host the Championship because the populous country has never staged it, he has adoped a fall-back position. Given that 2020 is the 60th anniversary of the first tournament, he has suggested that the competition could be staged in several countries across Europe, thus giving some nations, which usually do not have the opportunity to host the entire event because they are too small, to put on a couple of games. This might include states such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Such a plan could work—and would certainly help the Olympic authorities in Turkey, who must have become frustrated by the prevarication. As it is Tokyo is quietly marshalling its bid and seems a clear front-runner a year before the vote in Buenos Aires next September.
** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.
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