News / Europe

Olympics 2020 City Contest Becomes 'Least-ugly Parade'

Question marks in the arrangement of Olympic rings are pictured on a screen at Madrid's landmark Callao Square, Sept. 6, 2013.
Question marks in the arrangement of Olympic rings are pictured on a screen at Madrid's landmark Callao Square, Sept. 6, 2013.
Reuters
Would-be 2020 Olympic cities of Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo parade before the Games' organizing body on Saturday in a “least ugly” contest as they attempt to conceal their blemishes and win the right to host the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.
 
All three cities are wrestling different demons which, in another contest and another time, would likely rule them out of winning the honor to stage the Games.
 
But in Buenos Aires on Saturday, the some 100 members of the International Olympic Committee must choose the least worst option and trust the winning city can deliver on their promises.
 
All three cities will present their bids to the IOC membership, with Istanbul first up, followed by Tokyo and then Madrid. Each city is being represented in person by leading statesmen.
 
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will represent his capital city, with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan backing Istanbul, while Prince Felipe of Spain is part of Madrid's official presentation.
 
IOC members will then hear a report from an internal Evaluation Commission formed of IOC members and Olympic experts, before voting begins.
 
Should a city not obtain an outright majority of votes, the candidate with the least votes will be eliminated and the two remaining cities will go head to head in a second round.
 
Madrid continues to suffocate under a recession, Istanbul is saddled with the specter of military strikes in neighboring Syria and internal unrest while Tokyo is back in the headlines after a series of damaging disclosures about the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant 230 km (140 miles) from the city.
 
'Least-ugly Parade'
 
Publicly, the membership of the International Olympic Committee is smiling through the crisis, but privately many concede that this is now an exercise in evaluating risk rather than celebrating sport.
 
“What is usually a celebration... a good news event, is now a contest of the least-bad news,” an Olympic insider familiar with the selection process told Reuters. “It is not a beauty contest, it is a least-ugly parade.”
 
Spain, once an outsider due to the recession which had  stymied their ambitions, is gathering pace all the time in Argentina, as Olympic bosses seek the safest option.
 
“The economic crisis is starting to get better,” Madrid Mayor Ana Botella told reporters, adding that 90 percent of the infrastructure needed to host the event is already in place.
 
“The amount we would have to invest over seven years is very small compared to the budget of the state, the autonomous community of Madrid and the city hall,” she said.
 
Easing Concerns
 
Such an unsexy claim, made in the wake of the announcement of a sixth month of falling unemployment, would in other circumstances carry little weight in the rarefied Olympic world of bombast and boast.
 
But in this contest it strikes to the heart of the matter, and is aimed at easing concerns.
 
Staging an Olympics is an expensive proposition and is categorized in two ways - the “Games budget” which covers the cost of staging the 16-day event, and the “non-Games budget” which includes venue construction, and indirect Olympic-related projects like access roads and transportation.
 
The Spaniards officials say that with much of the infrastructure already in place, it will be the first time a projected Games budget of some $3.1 billion exceeds investment of just under $2 billion in projects linked to the hosting of the event but not directly related.
 
That compares with Istanbul's massive non-Games budget of around $17 billion, dwarfing expected Games expenditure of $2.9 billion. Tokyo, which hosted the Games in 1964, is also planning to incorporate existing venues and has estimated a non-Games budget of around $4.4 billion compared to $3.4 billion for the actual event.
 
The Japanese, too, must ease concerns and Prime Minister Abe is flying into Argentina having broken away early from a Group of 20 summit in Russia.
 
Fukushima Nuclear Plant
 
The disclosures in recent weeks about the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant 230 km (140 miles) from Tokyo came as an unwelcome shock to an Olympic membership not appreciative of surprises.
 
The plant's operator has been forced to reverse denials and admit that hundreds of tons of radioactive water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean each day, and radiation levels have spiked.
 
Abe's government said this week it will spend almost half a billion dollars to try to fix the water crisis and critics said the government's sudden embrace of the issue was aimed largely at winning the Olympic bid.
 
Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose (C) speaks next to Japanese Olympian Yuki Ota (R) and member of the Tokyo 2020 delegation Christel Takinawa during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Sept. 6, 2013.Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose (C) speaks next to Japanese Olympian Yuki Ota (R) and member of the Tokyo 2020 delegation Christel Takinawa during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Sept. 6, 2013.
x
Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose (C) speaks next to Japanese Olympian Yuki Ota (R) and member of the Tokyo 2020 delegation Christel Takinawa during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Sept. 6, 2013.
Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose (C) speaks next to Japanese Olympian Yuki Ota (R) and member of the Tokyo 2020 delegation Christel Takinawa during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Sept. 6, 2013.
“During our presentation, I look forward to conveying Tokyo's safety, strong finances, world class transportation and organizational ability,” Tokyo governor Naoki Inose said on Friday.

“We believe we have shown that Tokyo is the right partner for the International Olympic Committee [IOC] and will host a safe and incredible city-center celebration," he continued. “Considering the world economy recently, for a true celebration, for a party for mankind like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, strong evidence exists that Tokyo has the ability to deliver.”
 
Istanbul launched its bid on the back of an Islamic card, of becoming the first Olympics in a predominantly Muslim country and the first staged across two continents simultaneously - Asia and Europe.
 
But instead of promoting that angle, the bid team has been fending off fears of unrest following weeks of protest in June after police cracked down on anti-government demonstrators, leaving four people dead and 7,500 injured.
 
Hasan Arat, Bid Chairman and Vice President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, Alp Berker (L), Director of Sport at Istanbul 2020, Nese Gundogan (R), Secretary General of Turkey's National Olympic Committee give a news conference in Buenos Aires,Hasan Arat, Bid Chairman and Vice President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, Alp Berker (L), Director of Sport at Istanbul 2020, Nese Gundogan (R), Secretary General of Turkey's National Olympic Committee give a news conference in Buenos Aires,
x
Hasan Arat, Bid Chairman and Vice President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, Alp Berker (L), Director of Sport at Istanbul 2020, Nese Gundogan (R), Secretary General of Turkey's National Olympic Committee give a news conference in Buenos Aires,
Hasan Arat, Bid Chairman and Vice President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, Alp Berker (L), Director of Sport at Istanbul 2020, Nese Gundogan (R), Secretary General of Turkey's National Olympic Committee give a news conference in Buenos Aires,
Now it is also forced to contend with fears a potential U.S. military intervention in neighboring Syria could stop the bid in its tracks.
 
“This is a global issue ... now the world leaders are dealing with it,” Turkish bid chief Hasan Arat told Reuters when asked whether unrest in the region could harm the city's chances.
 
But geopolitics could weigh on Turkey, which has felt the strain of a refugee exodus from Syria's civil war.
 
More than two million refugees have fled Syria, the United Nations said this week, calling the crisis “the tragedy of the century”.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs