World News

09.06.13

Up to Speed: Who Will Host the 2020 Olympics?

Which 2020 contender is the fairest of them all? Before the big announcement on Saturday, Nina Strochlic breaks down the pros and cons of the top three candidates.

On Saturday, a secret vote by the International Olympic Committee will choose which city gets the honor of hosting the 2020 summer games. Until then, it’s up to us to the weigh the odds on whether Istanbul, Tokyo, or Madrid will wear the colorful rings in seven years’ time. It’s hard to say exactly what IOC is looking for, or what issues will be big in the coming years, but here are the most important considerations to factor in as you place your bets.

Istanbul, Turkey

Downside: Istanbul is the least equipped city of the three contenders. The government would have to build around 70 percent of the venues needed for the games, which will rack up costs close to $19 billion—ten times more than Madrid, another top contender. Also, the escalating Syrian crisis has pushed thousands of refugees over the border to Turkey, adding to the country’s already unstable political tensions after the headline-grabbing protests in Taksim Square. Along with this, three dozen of the country’s athletes were recently netted in a doping scandal, which reportedly saw some collaboration by corrupt sporting authorities.

Selling Point: The need to build Olympic facilities from scratch is actually deemed attractive to a committee interested on leaving a mark. And if Istanbul is chosen, Turkey 2020 will be the first Olympic games set in the Middle East and in a majority Muslim country—a much needed morale booster for the embattled region.

Odds: Over the past few picking cycles, the IOC and World Cup organizer FIFA have seemed keen to grant the hosting honor to first-timer countries without past precedent of holding games. Plus, this is Turkey’s fifth bid for the opportunity, and a historic chance to set the games in the region. Regardless, it’s a pretty risky endeavor at the moment, and the nation may not be seen as stable enough to override the potential thorns.

Tokyo, Japan

Downside: Last month, more health risks from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear explosion came to light when it was found that contaminated water was leaking from the plant. The government has pledged this won’t be a problem, with $472 million slated to fix the leaks. “We are determined to take drastic measures of a maximum scale so that there are no problems by the 2020 Olympics,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this week. But the country still needs $4.4 billion in infrastructure, and public support for the games isn’t at the same level as in Turkey and Spain.

Selling Point: The country has already held three Olympic events—in 1964, 1972, and 1998—so they’re a reliable choice. Japan has also been increasingly persistent in selling itself, and Prime Minister Abe even plans to slip out from the G20 to make a final pitch to the committee in Buenos Aires before the decision is made.

Odds: Japan is an attractive option, with plenty of infrastructure, reliable economic means, and past success in hosting the games. It’s been speculated that bringing in the Olympics again could aid the country in a tough recovery from the disaster two years ago. But with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, another Asian host may not be diverse enough for the committee.

Madrid, Spain

Downside: Spain has been suffering from a crippling economic environment, with the country’s unemployment rate currently hovering around 27 percent. With the economy in the red, it’s risky to funnel so much money into this type of project.

Selling Point: According to the country, 80 percent of the needed venues is already in place, leaving a comparatively small gap of $1.9 billion. In a sign of optimism, the country has already begun building 35 projects. The economic benefits of hosting the game could also be highly beneficial to the struggling nation.

Odds: Spain was already shot down for the 2012 games and runnerup in 2016, so the third time might be the charm for Madrid. To give further credence to their bid, on Wednesday, rumor had it that Madrid was being named by Olympic officials as favored over Istanbul and Tokyo.