Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan "faces a nerve-wracking weekend -- one that could affect the future course of his rule," according to Daniel Dombey of the FINANCIAL TIMES. With Erdogan's home city of Istanbul’s "bid for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games due to be decided at the meeting in Argentina this Saturday, much more than mere sport is at stake." Turkey would not only be the first "Muslim majority country to host the games." Erdogan has also "identified success in the Olympic bid as a mark of the country’s emergence as a rising power on the world stage." Istanbul 2020 CEO Hasan Arat said, "It is very important for him to come here and be the captain of the team. This is his great dream." But after early months in which "success seemed all but assured, troubles have come crowding in." At the end of a "turbulent summer that has seen mass protests against his rule and mounting concern about the health of the Turkish economy," Erdogan is looking for "a measure of international recognition and a political and economic boost." Istanbul’s bid "stands out, not just for its undeniably spectacular ambitions ... but also for the sheer scale of its infrastructure spending." Istanbul has "committed itself" to a $19.2B budget for "related urban improvements as well as the cost of operating the Games themselves." The city’s formal bid book says that the "lion’s share of the funds" -- more than $10B -- would go to "roads and railways and the entire budget has been guaranteed by the government." Much has "changed since the bid was formally submitted." Turkey’s image has "been damaged by the clashes between protesters and police." Accusations of "government authoritarianism have continued," and the bid has also been "clouded by a spate of doping scandals." Turkey's economic prospects have been "affected by the general turn away from emerging markets, raising questions about how easy it will be to raise finance for such large infrastructure investments" (FT, 9/4). In London, Rick Broadbent wrote "In the plush corridors of power, which double as the Buenos Aires Hilton, the Olympic sport of schmoozing is reaching its climax. Princes, pole vaulters, sheikhs and soccer stars are shaking on the greatest prize in sport. The biggest bill will follow." The race is down to a battle between Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul, which a cynic may see "as a battle between radioactive leaks, economic meltdown and riots in the streets." That premise "adds resonance to the words of Thomas Bach, the favourite to succeed Jacques Rogge as president of the IOC, when he spoke of sport’s grand delusions. 'The first is that it has nothing to do with politics,' he said. 'The second is that it has nothing to with money'” (LONDON TIMES, 9/5).
TOKYO CONFIDENT: KYODO's Dave Hueston reported "by most experts' accounts, although the possibility of a few swing voters can't be ruled out, Tokyo is likely to be voted in as the 'safest' choice among the three candidates." Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said, "I'm in the final track race. There is no looking behind, no looking to the side; I intend to dash to the finish." Tokyo is bidding for the second time in a row. Its main theme: "reliability and safety in a time of global uncertainty. Madrid is making its third straight attempt, while Istanbul is bidding for the fifth time." This time, however, it is not "necessarily who has the strongest bid, but whose bid appears to have the fewest pitfalls in light of other political or economic shortcomings." Tokyo still faces questions on how "it is coping with a massive leak of radioactive water at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima following meltdowns triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami." Olympic experts also point out that "another drawback for Tokyo is the fact that Pyeongchang, South Korea, is hosting the 2018 Winter Games (IOC members might not want back-to-back Games in Asia)." Madrid, whose bid was "nearly dead on arrival because of Spain's ongoing economic crisis when launched two years ago," has made a resurgence as the "low-cost alternative," with 80% of the "venues ready and a construction budget" of €1.5Bs ($1.9B) (KYODO, 9/4).
FUKUSHIMA OVERSHADOWING BID: The AFP reported the "battered nuclear plant at Fukushima, where radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, hangs over Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympic Games." Just "two-and-a-half years into what could be a four-decade clean-up, the nuclear disaster sparked by an earthquake and tsunami is very much the Achilles heel of Tokyo's effort to bag the Games." Tokyo 2020 supporters, "chief among them" Japan PM Shinzo Abe, insist that the plant, 220 km north of Tokyo, "poses no danger to athletes or spectators." Abe said, "Voices of concern have been raised about the waste water problem in Fukushima. The government will stand at the forefront to completely fix this problem. I want to explain that this is not going to be a problem in any way in seven years' time" (AFP, 9/4).
OLYMPIC 'GURU' FAVORS MADRID: In Madrid, Juan Jiménez reported Duncan Mackay "is an Olympic guru." Mackay works for Inside The Games, which "specializes in Olympic projects and races and has written about the Olympic universe for more than 25 years." Mackay, who was "chosen as the best British Internet sportswriter in '09," said, "Madrid is the favorite, without a doubt. The other two candidates have problems, a lot of problems in recent months. First, Istanbul with massive doping problems to which the Syria problem has been added. And in Japan, the effects of the Fukushima problems are long-term problems. Madrid is ahead, it is the favorite" (AS, 9/4).