The Tokyo 2020 bid committee, "fueled by the twin catalysts of top-down organizational enthusiasm and strong financial backing," is seen by many "as the clear favorite to be awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics," according to Ed Odeven of SPORTS ON EARTH. Madrid and Istanbul "are the other two finalists." Madrid's bid "is impacted by Spain's severe economic problems," like 27% unemployment. The London Guardian reported Friday that Spain's under-25 unemployment "now stands at an alarming 56.1 percent, second in the European Union to Greece's 62.9." Istanbul's bid "likewise is affected by rising tensions, fears and anxiety in the Middle East as the Olympic vote draws near." Turkey's neighbor Syria "is embroiled in a civil war, facing the possibility of U.S.-led airstrikes in retaliation for chemical weapons attacks that reportedly killed more than 1,400 civilians." Does that "make Tokyo a guaranteed winner for the 2020 Games?" Of "course not, history has taught us." There "have been several surprise winners over the years," including the 2012 Games, for which London topped Paris 54-50 in the second and final round of voting in '05. Tokyo's "robust financial status puts it on par with London and New York among the world's financial headquarters," a fact the bid committee points out "repeatedly in press releases and newsletters" (SPORTS ON EARTH, 9/4). XINHUA reported Japan Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda "defended Tokyo's bid" to host the 2020 Olympics. Takeda: "Tokyo is extremely well positioned. With the organization and funds guaranteed, we will focus on those extras that help promote the Olympic spirit around the world. Our strength lies in our responsible organization" (XINHUA, 9/5).
MAKING THEIR CASE: REUTERS reported Tokyo's Olympic bid team "dangled dollar signs in front of the IOC, with a vow to leverage Asia's massive marketing potential were it awarded the right to stage." The Japanese "attempted to play a trump card in the face of a Fukushima crisis threatening to derail their hopes." While Tokyo "focused on finances, Istanbul placed athletes at the centre of its bid, promising them an unrivalled experience, and Madrid highlighted its support and backing at home." While Tokyo "spoke of the economy and benefits of unlocking Asia's potential, Istanbul bid chiefs spoke of their city's history." Turkish IOC member Ugur Erdener said, "Imagine being a marathon runner crossing continents over the Bosphorus Bridge, a triathlete racing alongside Istanbul's 2,500 year-old city walls or a volleyball player spiking for the match with the Bosphorus at your back." Madrid, meanwhile, "emphasised the broad popular support it is getting from Spaniards, citing an August poll which showed 91 percent of them now support Madrid's bid, up from around 80 percent earlier in the year" (REUTERS, 9/5).
DISASTERS APLENTY: The AFP reported fears over radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant and fall-out from the civil war in Syria "are hanging over Tokyo and Istanbul's attempts to host the 2020 Olympics, amid suggestions that third candidate city Madrid could benefit." The '11 meltdown at the plant 220km from Tokyo, which followed "a devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000, could still be a deciding factor in the vote." Hamburg University Sports Economics Professor Wolfgang Maennig said that the "brutal civil conflict" in Turkey's neighbor Syria, which has seen more than 2 million people flee the country, according to the United Nations, "could also sway members away from choosing Istanbul." Maenning said, "To my astonishment, it seems like it's going to be Madrid. I talked today to the president of a national (Olympic) federation and people are still afraid of Syria and even Iraq, even though that was years ago, affecting Turkey. There are also many concerns about the level of radiation in Japan" (AFP, 9/5).
SYRIA OPPOSITION: In Sydney, Jacquelin Magnay reported Australia IOC Exec board member John Coates "is facing opposition from an unlikely source" -- Syria -- in his quest to become IOC VP. Coates "is standing for the single vice-presidential vacancy after electing not to contest the IOC presidential election" on Sept. 10. But "he faces a late rival for the influential post after Syrian IOC member Samih Moudallal submitted a surprise last-gasp nomination, despite the civil war pulverising his country." Moudallal, a former adviser and secretary to the Speaker of the Syrian parliament, and general secretary of the parliament, told fellow IOC members he should be elected to the vice-presidential role to help the IOC "support human rights and supporting refugees all over the world" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/6).
MEDIA COVERAGE: BERNAMA reported nearly 1,300 reporters, photographers and cameramen are in Buenos Aires to cover the IOC's 2020 Games host city selection. The IOC will also select a new president and add a new sport to the athletic program (BERNAMA, 9/5).
NEW SPORTS: The World Squash Federation delegation that will present its case to join the 2020 Olympics is in Buenos Aires this week. Squash is one of three sports being considered by the IOC for inclusion in the Games (WSF). The other sports being considered for inclusion are baseball/softball and wrestling (SBD Global).
KEEPING HER POST: R-SPORT reported pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva "will not be stripped of her symbolic role as an ambassador of the Youth Olympics following controversial comments" in favor of Russia's law against “gay propaganda.” There "is no appetite within the IOC to punish Isinbayeva by removing her symbolic ambassador post" (R-SPORT, 9/5).