Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid: Who Will Host the 2020 Summer Olympics?

Never mind London and forget about Rio: Which city will win the bid for the 2020 Games?

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Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

People cheer as Japan's national women's soccer team wearing their silver medals wave atop an open-top bus parade through Japan's Ginza shopping district in Tokyo on Aug. 20, 2012. Japan held its first Olympic parade on the streets of Tokyo for its' returning medalists in the London 2012 Olympic Games as the city eyes hosting the games of 2020.

As soon as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, reluctantly handed the Olympic flag over to Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the closing ceremony of the London Games, the countdown to Rio 2016 was on. But beyond Brazil, another, much more suspenseful Olympic race is brewing: who will win the right to host the 2020 Games?

(MORE: Boris Johnson: The London Mayor is the Biggest Winner of the Olympics)

On September 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires, Argentina,  Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid will learn which of the three cities’ bids was enticing enough to convince the IOC to let it host the greatest show on earth. (Both Baku and Doha had to suffer the fate of being non-selected applicant cities, whereas the Italian government withdrew Rome’s bid due to the country’s perilous economic situation). The smart money is on Tokyo, but the Olympics have never been easy to predict. TIME looks at the pros, cons and odds of the three locations.

TOKYO (6/5 odds)

The British bookmakers have installed the Japanese capital as the favorite to host the Games and the reasons do appear compelling, even though this is the second Olympics in a row in which they’re bidding (the Olympics were also held there in 1964). “I think Tokyo is a pretty safe bet,” says Stefan Szymanski, the Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management, in the department of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan (the full audio of the interview is below). “You can trust the Japanese to get everything on time and to budget. You can be sure they will run an efficient, safe Games and there will be no risks involved. You can be sure all the technology’s going to work. So I think it’s big pluses on those fronts.”

Japan is currently basking in a post-Olympic glow, much like Great Britain. The Japanese had a medal haul in London unlike any other in their history, winning 38 medals, which put them in sixth place in the standings, if you go on the total amount of medals. Half a million people are estimated to have packed downtown Tokyo to welcome back the athletes, but reservations remain. “I remember the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was one of the most beautiful Olympics ever,” writes veteran Japanese sports journalist Kozo Abe in an email to TIME. “At that time we Japanese really needed to stage the Olympics to recover the national pride after World War II. Compared from that time, we don’t have an urgent need to stage the Tokyo Olympics now.” And Professor Szymanski sees two issues: The first is “a relatively low level of support, only 66% in favor, but that’s well behind their rivals. The IOC only wants to go places where they will be welcomed with adulation. And then the other problem is rather more imponderable: because of the earthquake last year, questions are being raised about the energy future of Tokyo.”

But the feeling persists that it’s still Tokyo’s bid to lose, if only because it might be considered Asia’s turn to host the 2020 Games. “A very coherent, sensible bid,” argues Szymanski. “And in terms of the politics, Asia would be a good place to hold the Games this time. I think having had the Games in London this time, I think Istanbul and Madrid will be seen as European bids. I think that puts Tokyo at an advantage and the others at a disadvantage.”

And Abe believes that the awarding of the Games to Tokyo is important for its people: “Japan is still poor in its economy and politicians are unreliable, and we have so many difficult issues with Korea and China. We need something that makes our nation together again for some good reason. That must be Tokyo Olympics 2020.”

(MORE: Gracious Losers: Japan’s Women Celebrate Silver in a Soccer Rematch with the U.S.)

ISTANBUL (5/2)

Could Istanbul pull off a shock and be the third Olympics in a row to be awarded to a city not considered the front-runner? Both Paris and Chicago were perceived to be more likely choices than eventual winners London and Rio and all involved with the Turkish bid will be hoping it’s fifth time lucky for a city yet to host the event.

“Should Istanbul be the winner, for the first time the Olympics will be held by a country in the Turkic and Islamic world,” said Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kilic. According to Szymanski, Istanbul offers the highest amount of support within any of the three nations – 87% – and the fact that Turkey is a “newly growing economy … might generate some sympathy from other IOC members, who might say ‘it’s their turn,’ rather in the way South Africa got the 2010 World Cup.”

But Istanbul’s main stumbling block could  be  in not receiving full support from the IOC’s executive board. According to the Associated Press, an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the board voted unanimously in favor of Tokyo and Madrid at 12-0 whereas Istanbul got an 11-1. Szymanski thinks they also have another problem, which is sports-related: Istanbul is in the running to host the 2020 European soccer championships. “That really is quite foolish seeing as it’s enough of a challenge to host the Summer Games, it’s really absurd to think they would want to do that and, in the same year, host the second biggest football tournament in the world,” he says. “It almost suggests they believe they’re not going to get the Summer Games and this is their reserve strategy. I think that’s a big mistake and I think that will count heavily against them.”

(VIDEO: The Sights and Sounds of the Olympics)

MADRID (3/1)

The Spanish capital is bidding for a third consecutive time and, according to Szymanski, the Madrid bid is “potentially the lowest cost: they claim to have 78% of the venues built so not surprisingly they come out with a relatively small budget of just $2.4 billion … that really would be value for money. If you could do that, you would end up saying the Olympics was worthwhile in cost benefit terms rather than the economic drain it historically has been.”

But as Szymanski, and everyone else on the planet is aware, “you’d have to be blind not to know that Spain has serious economic problems.” Moreover, “unlike perhaps the Japanese energy problems, the economic crisis in Spain is unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future so the debt overhang is going to be huge.”

Yet the locals remain optimistic. Gildo Seisdedos, a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, says, “I think it’s time for Madrid. The 2016 bid was not the right time to do it in terms of Olympic politics, but now I think Madrid is quite a good option in terms of solidity as most of the venues are already done and it’s a good European option.”

But economic crisis notwithstanding, it would be hard to argue against the logic that it makes more sense to look outside of  Europe due to London hosting the most recent Games. It’s clear that Tokyo remains in the driver’s seat, but the allure of Istanbul’s bid may end up resulting in yet another IOC surprise.

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23 comments
vlachos.harry
vlachos.harry

Prime minister of turkey said that he will build separate Olympic pools for men and women

Unless there is a more fanatic muslim prime minister in turkey by next election and women will be forced  to compete wearing burga and the only olympic game for women will be sack racing

신미나
신미나

Japan should not be hosting Olympics, when I heard this news I couldn't believe how stubborn they are. They have endlessly committed crimes from history. What makes Japan different from others is that
1. They don't acknowledge their crimes
2. They steal cultures from their mother countries like China/Korea and never show any respect towards them.

Right now the nuclear crisis is very serious. Media is 'shooshed' by the Japanese government not to broadcast this issue, a world-wide disaster. Japan should have prevented the nuclear explosion while they could...but unfortunately, they did not. Although they were aware of the problem, they wanted to save money and avoided. Now see what happened. They called SOS to the U.S and the world for a help to build a barrier which would cost us couple of billions of dollars.

Doraemon
Doraemon

The truth about Spain:
-Spanish economic problems are growing day after day. Spain is following the greek path. Who would talk on the economic impulse of the games in Athens right now?
-The city of Madrid has already a HUGE debt, that they can hardly afford to pay. If the games are granted there is a high risk of unpayments when they're over, even for the olympic investors.
-Madrid has the lowest popular support rate. Hardly anyone in Spain wants the olympic games. Spanish people are suffering huge cuts in salaries, education, health, and employments while they see billions expended in olympic make-up. The 'political class' that is solely asking for the games is untrusted or even hated by the population.
-Corruption scandals appear every day. Even the monarchy is severily touched (Noos case), in... oh wait... corruption in sport events organization! People think the politicians want the olympic games for having more corruption opportunities for their own.
-Spain will face serious political problems in the near future. Gibraltar's issue will appear as the government's smoke screen whenever they need it again and again. Catalonia will firmly try its independence next year, in 2014. Basque Country can follow. No one can assure Spain will be a peaceful and 'politically neutral in sports' country in 2020.
By the way: I'm not for tokio or istanbul: I'm just spanish and it is the last thing the spanish people need right now. As we say here: it would be the last nail in our coffin.
PLEASE DON'T SUPPORT MADRID 2020!!!

Anatreya
Anatreya

Spain is not central Africa, just for the record.

RyannL.Mercado
RyannL.Mercado

I am not a member nor a citizen of any of the candidate cities. All three of them are very capable of successfully hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. But, I really do think that TOKYO will win this time around. I heard that overall, the Japanese bid received the highest praise from the IOC evaluation report last June. Also, reports show that Tokyo's public support has improved, up 23 points to 70 percent. They have a massive machinery to get the job done. Madrid has always been one of my personal all-time favorite cities in the world. I have never been there but have always wanted to visit. Istanbul is an enchanting city. Rich in culture and history. But the odds are seem to be going in Tokyo's direction. Beijing Olympics has been widely regarded as a logistical success by the world's media while London Olympics was probably the best organized Games ever. If I were to choose the city who is "mad" enough to take the crown from the previous two games, I'll pick Tokyo without a doubt. Its gonna be a tight race that's for sure. As always, the winner will be decided by either a "qualitative vote" or a "political vote." Now more than ever, politics plays a potent role in virtually everything in our society. Yes, even in the Olympics. 

nmgscp
nmgscp

I think this is time for Istanbul to organize the games. Tokyo is not cosmopolitan enough and Madrid is now in trouble because of the financial crisis (plus, Spain already had the games in Barcelona). Istanbul is cosmopolitan, it's the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it's a modern Muslim nation, and is improving a lot its infrastracture. Plus, it has the highest popular support for the games among the 3 cities.

TériqueÔ'mariBoyce
TériqueÔ'mariBoyce

Spain has a bad economy and is needing bailouts. Turkey has border and terroist issues. Also i dont thin just because it sit on asia amd europe it should host the olympics. The quality of the city and country should matter.

TériqueÔ'mariBoyce
TériqueÔ'mariBoyce

Tokyo has as much radiation as new york. The people living there including foreigners have been doing fine. Countries have lifted thier travel bans agaisnt japan. Also Tokyo is a beautiful city, especially compared to. madrid or turkey. You wont get bored in tokyo. As for the ww2 stage. that war is old. they have been many wats and conflicts since then. japan has offered apologies (although their compensation has been low). to both China and South Korea. Also they offered apologies to other countries they took over such as taiwan, Thailand etc, and those countries have forgiven them. Strong nationalistic pride between China and Korea has made the two countries more reluctent to accept thier current apology, and making it harder for the Japanese to build relations. Yes the rape of nanking and the confort women were terrible event. But other countries have put those events behind.

HanSangYoon
HanSangYoon

I am actually against the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. May it be held either at Madrid or Istanbul, because Tokyo is already crammed, and what's more, their grounds are heavily polluted with cesium and all the radiated materials. I predict, if Tokyo won the bid, then at 2020, we are going to have all our athletes and visitors be sick from radiation. Do not visit Northern-to-Middle Japan; you will get sick. If Japan hosted their Olympics at Southern Japan such as Osaka or Kyoto, I wouldn't have said this message.

lynn.lollipop
lynn.lollipop

It will be a shame if Japan win since they denial the atrocities during the world war 2. 

milos.velicic89
milos.velicic89

MADRID! Tokyo and Istanbul can do that I am sure. I would love to see it in Madrid.

MarceloFerreira
MarceloFerreira

The History of İstanbul

İstanbul is one of the world's most ancient cities, a place of rich identity and countless interlocking histories. Over thousands of years, it has been home to great civilisations and a fusion of cultures, from the Megarians to the Spartans, the Romans to the Greeks, and the Arabs to the Turks. As the capital of the Ottoman Empire, İstanbul's hands reached across Europe, Asia and Africa, weaving together the threads that define these continents and making it a cultural, intellectual and diplomatic hub.

Despite İstanbul's rapid modernisation, its history remains in the fabric of its people's lives. The city's architecture was shaped by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, with diverse Christian and Islamic influences. It is a city whose history still lives and breathes.

The Bosphorus and the Golden Horn provide the stunning natural canvas that lies beneath every truly iconic city. The strait leads visitors into the Old City, where İstanbul's past comes vividly to life. The legendary bazaar draws visitors into its labyrinth, embracing them in the essence of the city. Gloriously smelling spices, the call to prayer and the fusion of eastern and western foods excite the senses. From the depths of the Basilica Cistern to the tip of the Blue Mosque minarets, İstanbul teems with hidden charms waiting to be explored.

Beyoğlu, on the city's European side, brings the city to life in a different way. Here, İstanbul boasts an array of entertainment: trendy bars, high-class restaurants, theatres and boutique shopping. These all play their part in the infectious vibrancy that flows through the streets, flooding the atmosphere with the colourful sounds of music and good company late into the night. İstanbul is a 24-hour living city with a buzz and a chic that thrusts its history and tradition firmly into the New World spotlight.

As a physical and metaphorical bridge between Europe and Asia, İstanbul stands alone in its blending of culture and religion. It is the city where two worlds are unified in the most positive of ways, at once brilliantly energetic and harmonious. İstanbul is not just a cosmopolitan city: it is a truly international city where the vast array of races, religions, histories and cultures coexist and combine in a spirit of harmony and tolerance.


http://www.istanbul2020.com.tr/en/

sweet_heaven
sweet_heaven

It's nice to see the anguish, mean attitude towards Spanish bid to host 2020 Olympics.... Its funny to observe the hypocrasy in The Times. Yes, everybody talks about economic crisis but don't make me laugh please... Many brits and germans visit Spain, decide to live in this country (some, took for granted Mallorca or Canary Islands)  and kill for their delicious gastronomy; Many brits come to Madrid and fell in love because of the city itself, its culture.... Does crisis change this spirit? I think not. This country is not a third world one and everybody should show some respect.

Remember Barcelona 1992. There was no need for investing such a huge amount of money. The result? "the best olympics ever".  After Barcelona 1992, things changed: there was a before and after. In fact, the rest of the future hosting cities wanted to bit such a magnificent organisation. Moreover, Sydney 2000 plagiarised many things... So did other hosting cities, or at least took into account how Spain organised the first and only Olympic games.

Istambul is a nice city (I have friends there) but don't pull down Madrid when you even bother to visit it and you are not able to draw up a general opinion about the city, the country and its citizens. Don't show up, how ignorant some journalist are, please.

shuami
shuami

I hope that the host goes to Istanbul (and my bet goes to it too). The 2016 Olympic goes to S. America, so Asia or Europe is due next time. And it just happens the Istanbul sits on both continents. And it will be a first for a Turkic and Islamic country. It has the highest public support rate among the final 3 and itself an economic rising star.

ugurgonul
ugurgonul

2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Asia. Japan has hosted a few times. This time for a country which has never hosted. Istanbul would be awesome for olympics. Because Istanbul is the only city located in 2 continents in the world.

Jan Campo
Jan Campo

Are you kidding me? Tokyo is the favorite? I want Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympics. I went there over the summer. It's a great magnificent beautiful city and having the Games there would be great. Istanbul deserves hosting the Olympics in my opinion. They should get it. Hope the IOC is smart with their choice with whichever city they pick.

baniasnoel
baniasnoel

Yes, by all means, bring it back to Tokyo in 2020. It'll be most memorable

alannab99
alannab99

"But the feeling persists that it’s still Tokyo’s bid to lose, if only

because it might be considered Asia’s turn to host the 2020 Games."

They're due again after having the games in Beijing four years ago? I know that Japan and China are two very strong and separate countries, but I'm pretty sure they're both in Asia.   (All this was one reason why I was thrilled by the Rio win over Chicago, since South America has never had a Games.)

sweet_heaven
sweet_heaven

* "..how Spain organised its first and only Olympic games".


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