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Volume 21 No. 2
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Tokyo best option for 2020 Games

The competition to host the 2020 Olympics wasn’t a beauty contest. It was a contest to see what city concealed its blemishes best. And Tokyo won that battle with ease.

After all, what’s a minor nuclear leak compared to an economy that is in tatters or a violent crackdown on protesters?

“The other two were just too risky,” International Olympic Committee member Denis Oswald said of Istanbul and Madrid after the Sept. 7 vote.

Risk was what the IOC wanted to avoid this time. It’s dealing with enough of that these days. Its gamble on Sochi has been repaid by overspending — to the tune of $50 billion — and international condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Its bet on Rio and the promise of South America is being overshadowed by concerns about construction delays. And Pyeongchang has the shadow of North Korea and its missile tests looming over it.

That’s why Tokyo fell just six votes short of winning the election outright in the first round, and it’s why the city won with a clear 60-36 majority in the second round. Compared with its peers, Tokyo offered the best option for the Olympic brand, right now. It’s a dependable city that has hosted the Games before; it has a strong infrastructure in place and $4.5 billion in the bank to build 10 new venues; and it has the world’s third-largest GDP.

Tokyo was exactly what the IOC wanted: Safe, dependable, financially sound and, relatively speaking, risk free.