Tokyo, Istanbul, Madrid dreaming of Olympics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 4:33am

Tokyo and Istanbul tried to allay fears that leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and the Syria conflict might hurt their bids to host the 2020 summer Olympics, as the race entered its final phase.

Madrid by contrast was in relaxed mode and fielded basketball superstar Pau Gasol, who despite being born in Barcelona has thrown his weight behind the Spanish capital city's third successive bid.

All three will learn their fate today.

Madrid, after finishing third and second for the 2012 and 2016 Games respectively, will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky.

Tokyo is hoping to get to host the games for the second time, having held them in 1964.

If Istanbul wins, Turkey would become the first predominantly Muslim country to welcome the Games.

Their fate lies in the hands of the unpredictable electorate of the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), 98 of whom are eligible to vote in the first round. Members from the cities' countries cannot.

Tokyo has had a wretched few days, with stories continuing to emerge about Fukushima, which was crippled in the tsunami and earthquake two years ago that left more than 18,000 people dead.

However, several high-profile Japanese athletes including the bid's director of sport Yuko Arakida said that by hosting the Games they would bring some solace to the young people affected by the tsunami and earthquake. "Needless to say we want this problem to be solved as quickly as possible," she said.

"We convey our thoughts to the people of Fukushima but we hope that by hosting the Games it will bring inspiration and solace to the children of the area."

Worries that the Syrian conflict could erode support for Istanbul appeared wide of the mark, as four IOC members stated that it would make no difference. "Current events do play a role but the world is an ever-changing place and who knows what it will be like in seven years time. It is a vote for the future not just about the present," IOC vice-president Ng Ser Miang said.

Gasol, Olympic silver medallist in 2008 and 2012 and the country's flagbearer at the latter opening ceremony, reflected Madrid's refusal to ever concede defeat.

"The whole of Spain is excited," said the 33-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star. "We are showing everyone that we have a dream and that we don't throw the towel in or give up, which is very important. Our bid is very strong and it is risk free."