Common sense has finally prevailed. I have previously written about sports bodies’ poor track record of selecting host cities for major events. On this occasion though, IOC officials, perhaps weary of criticism, have made the right decision. Yesterday, they announced Tokyo will host he 2020 Olympics, ahead of rival bids from Madrid and Istanbul.
It would have been perverse to grant the wonderful, but financially cumbersome burden, on the Spanish capital when half of the country’s youth population is unemployed. Although Madrid’s campaign team proposed an austerity Olympics budgeted at a cost of ‘only’ £2 billion, the Spanish government, and the IOC by association, nevertheless ran the risk of provoking protests in the run up to the Games. These protests could have replicated the ugly scenes in Brazil in June if the public had resented the redirection of funding towards sporting infrastructure at a time of economic uncertainty.
Similarly, officials in Istanbul will not have been surprised to have missed out on hosting the Olympics. The recent civil unrest and the country’s geographic proximity to Syria did not help the city’s bid. However, as the competition remains almost seven years away, these are not the most significant mitigating factors. Rather, it was the exposing of a national drug scandal that led to 31 Turkish athletes receiving two-year bans in August for using performance enhancing drugs. Hosting the Olympics is an honour and granting it to a national athletics body riddled with cheats would have been widely condemned.
Instead, Tokyo will host the Olympics for the first time since 1964. Critics remain concerned by the potential consequences of radiation emanating from the nuclear plant in Fukushima, but in all likelihood by the time Tokyo hosts the event, concerns regarding the site 250km away will have long since subsided.