Saturday, September 7, 2013

Let's Talk Turkey (and Tokyo, and Madrid)

Later today in Buenos Aires, the International Olympic Committee selects the host city for the Games of 2020. Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo will present their cases in Argentina, each pleading why their city may be the best place for the future Olympiad.

While following the bid process over many months, no clear favorite came to mind for this blogger until today. It should be a close vote, probably going multiple rounds, but only the election action will tell.

Istanbul will win, I think, for a few major strengths of note:

-- This is the Turkish city's fifth Olympic bid. They've gutted out several recent (though non-consecutive) bid processes, learning and refining along the way. Their staying power is a major asset
-- Istanbul lets the IOC dip its five-ringed toes into the Arab market (new for the Olympics) while tethering to Western/European familiarity. It's bid-trendy for the IOC to tap new regions as they did with Rio 2016 and Beijing 2008
-- Istanbul is a beautiful city with some of the best hospitality/tourism options worldwide, with plenty of hotels and TV-ready ancient historic sites, gorgeous and modern sports venues, and an accomplished record of hosting major global sporting events (personally, my girlfriend and I consider Istanbul as the site of our most relaxing and fun holiday experience -- we fell in love with the people, culture, history and climate there)
-- The IOC is used to protests; recent incidents in Istanbul are challenges the IOC voters may consider "normal" and manageable.

While Tokyo has as many bids under its belt, and a similar strong record, I think there are a couple of Achilles' heels for Japan's bid. Geography may be a factor (too close to Korea, hosting the 2018 Winter Games), and the potential headaches of post-Fukushima and soaring costs (Tokyo being among the world's most expensive cities in which to work and live). In some ways, Tokyo's hosting of the 1964 Games may also turn off a few IOC voters who may be looking for a fully new location in lieu of building on a legacy.

And while Madrid is a repeat bidder with an outstanding record, I don't think their modest budgets will resonate with IOC members with a bigger is better mindset. This city was more of a sentimental favorite for past bids (given longtime IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch's Spanish roots), and there may be less sentiment during this vote.

For both Tokyo and Madrid, their presentations may come across as slightly more "what's in it for us" rather than "what's in it for the IOC" (its unavoidable that Japan present that the 2020 Games would lead to more recovery from recent disasters, and Spain's presentation can't get around the economy factor and how the Games would help on the money side).

I wish for all three candidate cities the greatest success with their presentations, and certainly will plan travel to the city ultimately selected for 2020.

Afternoon Update (added 9/7/2013 at 4 p.m. CT): Congratulations to Tokyo, which won the 2020 Olympic bid. Early reports on the vote show Japan's bid city took the lead in the first round, then picked up more votes for the win in IOC ballots round two. I've only experienced Tokyo via Narita International Airport, and anticipate today's selection will bring more travel to Asia in the near future.  It's a bummer for Istanbul supporters, particularly those in the media room in Argentina, according to Inside The Games. It will be fun to see if Turkey and Spain both give it another go for 2024.

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