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Who will host the 2020 Olympics? The other big election

4 September 2013

2020: While Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott prepare for their political battle in Australia the other big election is happening this weekend in Argentina at the 125th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 1700 accredited media have begun arriving in Buenos Aires, 900 are from Japanese media organisations all hoping that Tokyo is chosen by the IOC delegates to host the Olympic Games in 2020.

The race for host city is down to three, Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.

In the Hilton Hotel, where the vote will take place, the arm-twisting for votes is well underway, but don’t dare ask an IOC member which city they are supporting... public endorsement of a bidding city is strictly forbidden.

Ask any of Australia’s IOC members, Kevan Gosper, John Coates and James Tomkins and all you will get is a wry smile.

Although Gosper provided Steve Wilson from Associated Press (AP) with a hint. "We're looking for the city which we can look toward to be the most secure option at this stage, given global uncertainties and the fact that we're entering into a new era with a new presidency," Gosper said. "We're looking for a safe pair of hands."

Madrid has bid twice (2012, 2016) since Barcelona last hosted the Games for Spain in 1992. Istanbul has missed out four times (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012) and Tokyo bid for 2016 Games only to lose to Rio. Such is the prize.

Tokyo last hosted the Games in 1964, Madrid and Istanbul have never had the honour. All three cities have negatives to overcome.

Madrid has the pulling power, the connections, of Juan Antonio Samaranch (junior). His father ran the IOC for twenty years and the family name carries considerable clout amongst IOC members but Spain is beset by economic problems which are likely to cost Madrid votes.

Istanbul was the early favourite because the Games have never been held in a predominantly Muslim country and it was felt rewarding Turkey with the Olympic Games would do wonders for world peace. Unfortunately they appear handicapped by the Syrian upheaval right on their doorstep.  

Tokyo is promoted by some as a safer bet. The Japanese are renowned for getting the job done with a minimum of fuss and this is seen as a positive especially with Rio, the 2016 host, currently behind with their preparations. However, Tokyo is also trying to overcome on-going negatives surrounding the leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The political smooching here rivals any election. Each bid city has a huge entourage and all too often the final presentations win the day. Last minute rehearsals are underway, royalty and sporting superstars are on their way to grace the stage.

The 125th IOC Session will also elect a new President with Jacques Rogge stepping down after 12 years as the head of the IOC. There are six candidates for his job and they too are very busy in the smooching department. 

Three sports are vying for inclusion on the 2020 Olympic program: softball/baseball, squash and wrestling.

Wrestling dates back to ancient Olympics. Either Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling or both have been in every modern Olympics except 1900. Wrestling was surprisingly dropped from the 2020 Games in February but made the shortlist in May for possible re-inclusion.

Squash has never been contested at the Olympics, just missing out on Olympic inclusion for 2012 and 2016.

Softball and baseball have both been contested at the Olympic before, but they were voted out by IOC the in 2005 after the 2008 Games. They failed previously as separate bids and this time presented a combined softball/baseball bid.

WATCH the 2020 Candidate City bid videos here >>

Mike Tancred in Buenos Aires
AOC
Olympics.com.au @AUSOlympicTeam