Less than four months before the IOC vote, the three cities vying for the 2020 Olympics took their campaign to a key international audience on Thursday — with each claiming to be the safest and most financially secure choice at a time of global uncertainty.
Officials from Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo made presentations to the SportAccord conference in St. Petersburg, their first chance to pitch their bids in public to sports and Olympic officials.
With speeches and videos, officials promised compact games, packed venues and convenient transportation. They’re hoping to gain momentum in a race that will culminate with the vote on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The IOC evaluation commission will issue a report on June 25 assessing the three bids.
On July 3, the candidate cities will make presentations directly to IOC members in Lausanne, Switzerland.
All three cities are repeat bidders: Istanbul is back for a fifth overall time, Madrid is bidding for a third straight time and Tokyo for a second consecutive attempt.
Each said they had learned from their previous defeats and improved their bids.
“In the past, Turkey bid for the games as an emerging nation,” Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat said. “This time, Turkey is bidding as an emerged nation.”
With financial issues looming over the bid race, all three sought to portray themselves as risk-free choices.
Spain has been battered by recession and is facing an unemployment rate of 27 percent, issues which have hung over Madrid’s candidacy.
Madrid brought Jaime Garcia-Legaz, Spain’s secretary of state for trade, to hammer home the message that the city’s bid is financially secure. He said Spain will have steady economic growth in the next five years.
“Spain’s economic fundamentals are sound, diverse and fully able to support the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and so is the Madrid 2020 budget,” he said. “The fundamentals of the Spanish economy are strong and deep.”
Garcia-Legaz noted that Madrid’s infrastructure budget for the games is only $1.9 billion, “one of the lowest in Olympic history.”
Istanbul’s is $19 billion and Tokyo’s $4.5 billion.
Madrid bid CEO Victor Sanchez said the construction budget is lower than the games-time operating budget and called the Spanish capital “a city that offers no risk to the Olympic movement.”
Madrid noted that 80 percent of its facilities are in place, requiring little new expenditure.
“We are prepared for the games and we are a safe choice for the movement,” Mayor Ana Botella said.
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, praised its reputation for safety and reliability.
“I understand that many people are saying that our bid is the ‘safe’ option in this campaign,” Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said. “What I don’t understand is why some people seem to think that this could be a bad thing. We are proud that our city is the safest in the world.
“If you lose something, many times it returns to your hands, including cash.”
Tokyo leaders also stressed the strength of Japan’s economy, with Inose saying “our finances offer the strongest foundations to host the games.”
The governor said the $4.5 billion fund for hosting the games is already in place.
“This is cash in the bank, ready right now to pay for all new permanent venues and infrastructure,” Inose said.
With Spain mired in recession and Turkey representing a new destination, Japan is positioning itself as a stable and certain option.
“Tokyo is the safe pair of hands,” bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda said. “In these uncertain times, Tokyo 2020 offers certainty. You can have total confidence that we will deliver.”
Istanbul played up the opportunity of bringing the Olympics to a new region. That would follow the recent trend of the IOC, which has awarded games to Sochi, Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang, South Korea.
With Istanbul connecting two continents, the bid presentation raised the image of marathon runners crossing a bridge over the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe.
“We have a city that bridges light and shade, old and new, east and west,” Sports and Youth Minister Suat Kilic said. “Istanbul shines like a diamond.”
With that, Istanbul showed a video of the city featuring the Rihanna hit “Diamonds.”
“Turkey has totally transformed since our last bid,” Kilic said. “We are ready to step onto the global stage and welcome the world as we have for millennia. But now, to a new Turkey.”
The minister said Turkey has one of the world’s strongest growing economies, with average annual growth of more than 5 percent over the past decade.
“We now have the financial strength to host the games,” Kilic said.
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