Tokyo

Blog: Tokyo beats Istanbul, Madrid for 2020 Olympics

There are questions surrounding Japan's winning bid, specifically the Fukushima plant disaster and the tsunami-ravaged coast.

The IOC always has a choice, and it never seems easy.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, after a 60-36 vote slaughter of Istanbul on Saturday in Argentina. Madrid was the third slice of the pie, eliminated earlier in a first-round ballot.

And yet, there are concerns about Tokyo. Rather, about Japan.

“It comes at a huge price: more than $1.5 billion,” wrote the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes. “That is just a small part of the $8 billion that will be spent on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones. So it’s all good news for Japan’s construction companies, who have long been suckled on the teat of government spending.

But all this money going it to Tokyo may be less good news for other parts of the country, particularly the Tsunami ravaged north-east coast. In many areas re-construction has still barely begun.”

Wingfield-Hayes – and pretty much everyone else – also touched on the situation in Fukushima, where a nuclear plant disaster in 2011 has left over 100,000 residents still stranded from their homes.

“Many feel that the rest of Japan is already forgetting about them, and that the Japanese government only cares about getting the other nuclear power plants back on line.

“If there is one positive thing for the people of Fukushima to come from the Olympic decision, it is that the world is now watching even more closely to see what goes on there. The Japanese government has seven years to contain and neutralise the disaster properly.”

If the IOC actually cares about societal tensions or cultural unrest – and their history offers little evidence they do – then anywhere in Japan may have been a better option to Spain or Turkey, based on Wingfield-Hayes’s last comments above.

Although Spanish representatives said their country’s current economic crater was nothing to worry about, it’s hard to imagine that. Billions are still billions, and the cost of an Olympics always seems to rise the closer the Games get.

“Madrid offers a safe, solid and reliable bid,” said Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. “In fact, Madrid 2020 has perhaps the most reasonable and responsible financial foundation in recent Olympic history.

“Eighty per cent of the investment has already been undertaken and the Government guarantees the remainder.

“There is no risk to the Olympic Movement.”

Still, you have to question the responsibility of an Olympic body that would place its biggest party in a house that desperately needs the keg deposit returned.

The Spanish economic crisis is so present, the topic has its own Wikipedia page, and it’s still being updated. Spanish youth say things like, “Our generation is a lost cause.”

The IOC already has to deal with a teetering financial cleft in Brazil. They don’t need another.

And, while there’s little evidence to suggest Turkey would actually be a dangerous front for tourists with fanny packs, June’s riots are harder to look past than anything that could have happened to Tokyo.

It’s partly our Western bias – hey, it’s almost entirely our Western bias – but Japan has hosted before (as recently as 1998 in Nagano), and they’ll host again.

Is there work to be done?

Sure. There would be anywhere.

But, seven years is a long time.

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