2020 Olympic candidates seek London boost

AFP, Monday 23 Jul 2012

Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid want to make in an impression in London

The London Olympics have not yet started but the three candidates still in the race to host the 2020 Summer Games are gearing up to make an impression in the British capital.

Tokyo, the only one of the three to have previously hosted the Games back in 1964, Istanbul and Madrid will learn their fate in Buenos Aires on September 13 next year when International Olympic Committee members vote.

The trio survived the initial cut when the short-list was voted on by the IOC Executive Board in Quebec City in May -- Doha and Baku having been voted off -- and Tokyo remain the frontrunners.

There are no doubts about their ability to host the showpiece, both in financial and infrastructure terms.

But perhaps another more powerful argument in their favour is that IOC members may be swayed into voting for the Japanese bid after the quake-tsunami disaster which left about 19,000 people dead or missing last year.

"It is a powerful argument, IOC members like a story and also are especially keen on the legacy message," a source close to the IOC told AFP.

"What better legacy than to give them the Games for 2020 which will have a knock on effect in their eyes in terms of restoring morale to the Japanese people.

"With all those factors in their plus column it is basically Tokyo's race to lose."

However, the other two candidates can be heartened by the fact that often the front runner a year out has come to grief when the votes have been cast.

Paris for the 2012 Games, Pyeongchang for the 2014 Winter Games and Chicago for the 2016 Summer Olympics are just recent examples of favourites to have fallen at the final hurdle.

Istanbul, especially, are seen as the one capable of upsetting the odds after several tepid bids.

Their making the short-list was especially significant as the bid had looked to have been fatally undermined when Turkey also bid for football's 2020 European Championship, having been largely encouraged to by UEFA President Michel Platini.

Under IOC rules no country can host another major sporting event in the same year as a Games.

But now the Euro host will be chosen after the IOC vote has taken place and the Turkish government has said if successful for the Games they will withdraw from the Euro campaign.

Certainly Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lent his full support to the bid.

Not only will he attend the London Games for several days, but he also sent the Turkish athletes off with a rousing speech at the weekend.

"The London 2012 Games is very significant for us, for Turkey," said the 58-year-old, who has been in power since 2003.

"Your success in London will have a big contribution to Turkey's bid process for 2020.

"As you know, we have set ambitious goals for 2023, the 100th anniversary of our Republic's foundation.

"Bringing the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Turkey, would be the crowning achievement for 2023's 100th anniversary celebrations."

Madrid's success in making the short-list raised eyebrows given the economic crisis affecting the country and their determination to go one better than they did for the 2016 race -- they lost out to Rio -- has caused even more surprise.

"They have turned the economic argument on its head in the manner in which they are trying to convince IOC members that they should host the Games," the source told AFP.

"They say that if they get the Games the boost it will give to the economy will put right a lot of the malaise currently being felt throughout the country.

"It's a gutsy line to take but whether it will wash may be decided more by outside forces than by the IOC members in 2013."

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