Olympics - 07 Jan 2013 - By Callum Murray in Lausanne
The three cities bidding to host the Olympic Games in 2020 today delivered their candidature files, or ‘bid books,’ to an International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne that still wears the aspect of an institution only operating at half speed following the devastating flood late last year that caused hundreds of thousands of Euros’ worth of damage and closed the building completely for several days.
Tokyo were due first at 10am, followed by Istanbul at 11am, and both bid teams, including many of their most senior officials, congregated in the cold outside the headquarters, with the main entrance and lobby remaining closed to visitors because of the flood damage.
The two visits actually overlapped by about an hour, giving an opportunity for waiting photographers as Hasan Arat, the Istanbul 2020 chairman, enveloped his Tokyo 2020 counterpart, the much smaller Masato Mizuno, in a bear hug, with each assuring the other of his respect for the rival bid.
Tokyo and Istanbul were followed at 2pm by the Madrid delegation, which (risking conforming to national stereotype) arrived with not a moment to spare to hand over its bid book (the other two had each arrived nearly an hour early).
The main message of the Tokyo 2020 bid book, according to Mizuno, is that Tokyo is a “safe pair of hands.” Asked by Sportcal whether such a message perhaps fails to convey the sense of excitement that, arguably, a city needs to win the votes of IOC members, Mizuno replied: “Tokyo is one of the most forward-thinking, full of excitement, full of energy, safe cities. We want to make a dynamic celebration, but on the other hand we have to be very well-organised, so we call it a safe pair of hands.”
The bid team will unveil the bid book publicly in Tokyo tomorrow, at a ceremony led by Tsunekazu Takeda, president of both the Japanese Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020, and this will be followed by a press conference in London for international media on January 10.
Asked how the Tokyo 2020 bid differs from the city’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 games, Mizuno said: “We’ve kept the best from the last bid and changed the rest. We’ve added outstanding ideas." He cited new locations and plans for both the main stadium and Olympic village.
In an interview conducted later outside the IOC HQ in an Istanbul 2020 mini-bus (for want of a better location), Arat told Sportcal that the main message of the Istanbul 2020 bid book is: “A compact plan, an easy to deliver games, full government support, from the prime minister to the mayor [Istanbul’s mayor, Kadir Topbaş, was present for the bid book handover], the people’s support, in both Istanbul and Turkey.
“And the most interesting thing is to host the games on two continents, Asia and Europe. This is our strongest message to the Olympic world. For 8,000 years, all nationalities and religions have lived together on the same streets.”
Arat added that Istanbul is a young city, with half of its population aged under 25, and said: “We must do something for the next generation. This is a big chance for Istanbul. We are ready. This bid is totally different [from Istanbul’s unsuccessful bids to host the Olympics in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012]. Turkey has changed a lot. The economic situation is stable and the city has a larger economy than 12 European countries. The infrastructure is very strong and is continuously growing.”
Arat cited plans to open a new tunnel between the European and Asian parts of the city later this year, as well as a new bridge linking the two parts of the city and a new airport, both scheduled to be completed in 2015.
Topbaş continued the theme, describing Istanbul as a “city of peace,” in which “different cultures have co-existed for centuries.” He added: “We already have the infrastructure to host the games, and by 2020 we will be in an even better position.”
Alejandro Blanco, the Madrid 2020 bid president, does not speak English, so it was left to Victor Sanchez, the chief executive, to address the international press (of which Japanese journalists were, as usual, the most numerous) after the Madrid delegation emerged from its handover.
Asked by Sportcal what was the main message of the Madrid bid, Sanchez said: “Experience, responsibility and unity. We have in the past years been building up our infrastructure, venues, airports, roads and stations. We have also hosted many international events: we have the experience, the venues and the enthusiasm of the people. We have all we need to deliver an excellent games.”
In reply to the now inevitable question about Spain’s continuing financial problems, Sanchez said: “The bid is fully guaranteed; we have no worries about this. We don’t have to build many new venues.”
Marisol Casado, the Spanish president of the International Triathlon Union and one of three Spanish IOC members who are supporting the Madrid 2020 bid, added that the city is a “very good size to host the Olympic Games: not too big and not too small. Public transport is very good and it’s easy to move from one place to another, but also there will be enough people watching the events.”
From tomorrow, the bids move into the international promotion phase of the bid process while simultaneously preparing for their next big test: the IOC’s evaluation commission visits to each city in March.
The commission is set to visit Tokyo on March 4 to 7, Madrid on March 18 to 21 and Istanbul on March 24 to 27.
The IOC is due to select the host city at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September.