POSTED: September 6th 2013

JOHN GOODBODY: Tokyo remains favourite for 2020 Olympics - and so it should

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) There are some momentous decisions to be made when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gathers in Buenos Aires this week. They include the election of a new president, which other sport from a short-list of three will be included for 2020 and also, on September 7, which city will host the Summer Games that year.

Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, the three cities bidding for 2020, all have strong cases, otherwise they would not have reached this stage. Istanbul has already made four attempts to get the Games and Turkey would also be the first Moslem country to stage them, with the bonus that the country straddles both Europe and Asia.

It may suffered from the publicity given to the brutal crack-down on political demonstrations during the summer but unless these flare up again in the next few days, it is unlikely to have influenced many IOC members in their vote. Its case, however, has certainly not been helped by the spate of positive drugs tests this year, particularly in athletics, while there is an ongoing investigation into the adverse finding of Asli Cakir Alptekin, the 1500 metres gold medal winner in London, who has previously served a two year ban for a positive drugs test.

Four years ago, the IOC broke new ground by awarding the 2016 Games to Rio de Janeiro, making Brazil the first South American nation to host them. If there were a widespread desire to be innovative again, then Istanbul would have a particularly strong case. However, given the difficulties that Rio is now having with putting on both the 2014 Fifa World Cup and 2016 Olympics, some IOC members may feel that they do not want once again to break new ground.

Spain is certainly not new ground either, given that Barcelona hosted such memorable Games in 1992. Madrid’s main problem is the perception that the Games could be endangered because of the seriously weak Spanish economy, with the IOC Evaluation Commission pointing out earlier in the summer that the Organising Committee faces “some risks”.

However, the Commission added that the budget represents a “reasonable” estimate of the costs associated with putting on the Games and considers it “achievable”. Certainly the fact that so many facilities, such as the extensive exhibition centre in the north of the city, already exist has helped its case that the budget can be met.
Both Istanbul and Madrid suffer from the disadvantage that many European IOC members from those countries wanting to host the 2024 Summer Olympics will not want the 2020 Games to come to Europe because that would then prevent their cities from applying for 2024. Successive Summer Games have not been staged in the same continent since 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki).

Tokyo has had an unsettled penultimate week before the ballot, with problems at Fukushima plant and the discovery of radio-active ‘hot spots’. However , the Japanese insist that their radiation levels  in the air and water are safe and are, in fact, the same as those in New York, London and Paris.

What gives Tokyo such a compelling case are: the strength of its economy, with a reserve fund for the Games of $4.5 billion; the growing importance of Japan and other Far Eastern countries in the same time zone for television and sponsorship revenue;  the ability of such a populous country to fill the stadia; its excellent infrastructure; and the reverence of the Japanese people for the Olympic Games.

They should win the vote –and probably ought to do so as well.

** 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. 

Keywords · Tokyo 2020 · Madrid 2020 · Istanbul 2020 · IOC · Olympics

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