Tokyo Lands '20 Games In Part Because It Was The Safest Bet Among The Finalists
The competition to host the '20 Games was not a beauty contest, it was a contest to see which candidate city could best conceal its blemishes. Tokyo won that battle with ease. After all, what is a minor nuclear leak today compared to an economy that is in tatters or a violent crackdowns against protesters? Switzerland IOC member Denis Oswald said of Istanbul and Madrid after the vote, “The other two were just too risky.” Risk was what the IOC wanted to avoid this time, as it is dealing with enough of that already. Its gamble on Sochi to host the upcoming '14 Games has been repaid by overspending -- to the tune of $50B -- and int'l condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Its bet on Rio for '16 and the promise of South America is being overshadowed by concerns about construction delays. That is why Tokyo fell just six votes short of winning the election outright in the first round, and why the city won with a clear 60-36 majority in the second round. Compared to its peers, Tokyo offered the best option for the Olympic brand right now. It is a dependable city that hosted the Games in '64, has a strong infrastructure in place, sits with $4.5B in the bank to build 10 new venues and boasts the world’s third-largest GDP.
BID STRESSED DEPENDABILITY: Tokyo’s bid’s presenters emphasized the city’s dependability repeatedly before IOC members. They underscored the business opportunity Tokyo offered, noting that it would deliver the biggest live TV audience, biggest ticket market and $1B in local sponsorship. They also highlighted the $4.5B they have already set aside to cover the costs of 10 venues and other developments necessary to host the Games. They tackled the issue of recent nuclear leaks from Japan’s Fukushima power plant, which suffered several meltdowns after the '11 earthquake. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the IOC that radiation levels in water and food were a hundredth the level that the World Health Organization specified as safe. Abe told the IOC, “I shall take responsibility to implement programs to render this situation completely problem free.” That seemed to be enough for IOC members. In the end, they opted to roll the dice on the issue of radiation rather than take the Olympics to Istanbul, which had violently put down protests over the summer and recently had 31 athletes test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and Madrid, which remains mired in a recession and had a recent doping scandal of its own. From a business perspective, Tokyo offered the biggest opportunity to drive local revenue. Bid organizers expect to deliver $931M in local sponsorship, $776M in ticket sales and $140M in licensing sales. The organizing committee will retain those revenues.
Tripp Mickle is on the ground in Buenos Aires reporting and tweeting from the IOC meetings. Look for continued posts from him on our On The Ground blog.