JOHN GOODBODY: Will the IOC want stability or to take a chance for 2020 Olympics?
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
January 14 - As the three contending cities for the 2020 Olympics prepare for the visit of the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in March, there are already several issues which could determine which candidate will eventually be chosen.
Tokyo seems the favourite. It is certainly the safest choice in a time of economic instablity. Japan has the third largest economy in the world, while Tokyo’s GDP is the biggest of any city on the planet and it has already put aside 4.5 billion dollars in a reserve fund in case it gets the Games, when the IOC members vote on September 7 in Buenos Aires.
It will need the reserves because its plans for new venues are the most extensive of the three candidates, transforming 70 hectares of water and land for the Olympic Village on the waterfront of Tokyo Bay, building several venues close to it and erecting a new Olympic stadium on the site of the main arena used for the 1964 Games.
Tokyo will benefit considerably in terms of leaving a legacy of sports facilities and one should not underestimate the importance of Japan to the Olympic Movement. It is a key stakeholder in terms of television revenue and interest to sponsors.
When asked this past week whether it mattered that the 2018 Winter Olympics would be held in the Far East, with Pyeongchang in South Korea being awarded the Games, Tsunekazu Takeda, the President of the Japanese Olympic Coimmittee and himself an IOC member, said there were several recent instances of the Summer and Winter events being held in the same continent, pointing to Athens in 2004 and Turin two years later, London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014, adding:”The Summer and Winter Games are different. And there are no rotation rules in the IOC.”
One weakness of Tokyo is that awarding the Games to Japan does not take the Olympic Movement to a new territory. This is where the second candidate city, Istanbul, scores. Turkey is a country with a population of over 70 million. It straddles both Europe and Asia and would bring the Games to the Moslem world for the first time. Turkey had wanted to stage the 2020 European Football Championship. But this will now be held in several countries that summer so clearing the way for Turkey to try to host the Olympics for the first time.
Istanbul has frequently tried to stage the Games in the past and therefore has several venues already built. Some IOC members may well view Istanbul in the same way as they saw Rio de Janeiro in 2009, when it was awarded the 2016 Olympics, an opportunity to go somewhere fresh, to spread Olympism to a new part of the world.
Madrid, the third candidate, has to persuade the IOC members that despite its well-known financial problems, it can put on the Games, the cost of which always escalates as the years go by. At least, it does not have to build many new venues because, like Turkey, it has been trying to stage the Olympics for many years and was perhaps unlucky not to be given the 2012 Games and was also the runner-up to Rio in the poll four years ago.
When the IOC members vote in September, much will depend on which European countries (France ?, Italy?, Germany ?, Russia ?) will want the Games not come to Europe in 2020 so that they can have a free run for 2024 and so their IOC members will opt for Tokyo. There is still much for which to play and to consider before the vote is taken.
** 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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