Outgoing president Jacques Rogge told a news conference in Buenos Aires, where Saturday’s vote will be held, “The challenge for the sport movement is to clearly indicate and prove that there is a good legacy after staging such events ... that it is a win-win situation for the city and the region.”
Mr. Rogge cited “both the human and the urban legacy” from the London Olympics, it’s interesting to note he didn’t include economic benefits and spinoffs in the equation.
But then hosting the Olympics isn’t really about a sound financial calculus, it’s about things like prestige.
The international spotlight awaits. Will it next shine on Tokyo, Istanbul, or Madrid?
Finances and location. Tokyo is regarded as the financially safe and most organized choice. The city’s bid team has pitched the IOC on its ability to leverage Asia’s massive marketing potential.
“Asia is the only continent in the world with more people living within its territory than outside,” said Fujio Cho, president of the Japan Sports Association. “Consequently it is the largest market in the world, with billions of passionate sports fans.”
Fukushima. Less than three years into what could be a four-decade cleanup, the nuclear disaster sparked by an earthquake and tsunami is very much the Achilles heel of Tokyo’s efforts to bag the Games. Japan has been reassuring the IOC, saying the plant poses no danger to athletes or spectators.
“The government will stand at the forefront to completely fix this problem,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I want to explain that this is not going to be a problem in any way in seven years’ time.”
In fact, the Japanese government is arguing that a 2020 Tokyo Olympics would inspire the world by showcasing how Japan has recovered from the triple catastrophe of March, 2011. Japan’s northern Pacific coastline was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, unleashing a towering tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people. Cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were swamped. Reactors went into meltdown and spewed radioactive materials over a tract of prime farmland.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes; many are still unable to return.
Surprisingly, Madrid’s strongest selling point is financial – its bid, at $5-billion (U.S.), is considered penny-pinching when compared to London 2012’s estimated cost of $13-billion.
The city is boasting that 90 per cent of the infrastructure needed to host the event is already in place. Twenty-eight of the 35 venues already exist and only four permanent structures will be added, including an Olympic village of 19 apartment blocks, to be built with private investment and later used as social housing.
“Most of the investment to celebrate and organize 2020 has already been done. Madrid today, unlike other cities, does not have to turn itself upside down with works across the whole city,” said Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, economist and professor at Barcelona University.
The economy. Spain is still in a deep recession that created Europe’s highest jobless rate, now more than 26 per cent. Madrid has debt of $9.8-billion; the wider Madrid region is in debt to the tune of $28.3-billion; and Spain’s overall public debt stands at $1.2-trillion, equal to 88.2 per cent of the country’s entire annual economic output.
Spain’s response is that the country’s debilitating economic crisis is ending and the country will have no problem covering investments and rallying support at home to host the 2020 Games. It also said the Olympics will help the economy and will generate 83,000 full-time jobs.
“I sincerely believe that the Games would revitalize the economy, though they would not be a panacea,” Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said in an interview with leading daily El Pais.
Bid chief Alejandro Blanco said a poll conducted in August found 91 per cent of Spaniards support Madrid as Olympic host – up from 81 per cent in a poll in March.
“This shows that support in Spain for our candidacy is practically unanimous,” he said.