Olympics: Open race for 2020 Games after IOC report

PARIS (AFP) - All three cities bidding for the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics declared themselves happy after the release on Tuesday of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Evaluation Commission report.

The Commission, headed by IOC vice-president Craig Reedie, were unanimous in their opinion that all three candidates, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo could host the Games, but that all three, through the boldness of their concepts, came with risks attached.

"The Commission confirms that each of three Candidate Cities could host the 2020 Olympic Games though, by the very nature of their vision and concept, the risks associated with each project are different," their report read.

Of the three cities reading through the balanced and dryly-written report Tokyo could probably take the most encouragement out if it.

However, the reports serve simply as a guide to the members and cities who have received highly favourable reports compared to their rivals in the past have not necessarily gone on to win.

The cities will learn their fate when the 100+ IOC members vote in Buenos Aires on Sept 7.

Istanbul, whose dynamic and innovative bid this time round contrasts sharply with four previous failed bids, is praised for its imaginative idea to hold the Opening and Closing ceremonies on the Asian side of the Bosphorous which will allow them to be watched by an estimated 500,000 spectators.

"The rich history of Istanbul, the cultural diversity of the city, its' love of sport and parties, as well as its' popularity as a tourist destination will certainly constitute very positive factors in hosting the Games," the Commission wrote in its' report.

Its main concerns about transport and construction projects - which sees them lagging behind the other two in terms of venues having already being built - were easily allayed said Istanbul bid chief executive Hasan Arat.

"In terms of showing our ability to deliver venues we have shown in Turkey that in 18 months we produced 18 venues after stepping in to host the Mediterranean Games," he said.

"With regards to transport the report also states that we have significantly improved public transport and we have enough funding to continue on the other projects."

The main concern about Madrid's candidacy has been the terrible state of the Spanish economy but the bid has always made a point of highlighting that 28 of the 35 venues are already built and most of the infrastructure is in place.

The Commission said they were confident that the modest budget of 2.37 billion euros (S$3.9 billion) for fulfilling the remaining building work is feasible.

"As the additional investment required to deliver the Games is relatively modest, the Commission believes that Spanish economy should be able to support the delivery of the Games," read the report.

"The report recognises how the bid has improved with respect to the previous ones (for the 2012 and 2016 Games) and the previous investment in infrastructure," said Madrid mayor Ana Botella.

"It is clear that the investment that remains is perfectly acceptable." The Madrid team answered the concern raised over the Commission's concern that 19 million euros for security was extremely low by saying any additional costs would be covered by the government.

Tokyo, the only one of the three to have previously hosted the Games, in 1964, but who finished behind Spain in the 2016 race when Rio de Janeiro won, received a generally glowing appraisal.

Tokyo intends to use "the power of sport" to offer hope to the Japanese people and promote national spirit, unity and confidence," in particular after the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the report said.

On the fear of more natural disasters in Japan, the IOC report said the Tokyo bidders had ensured that "robust" anti-quake construction standards and necessary anti-tsunami safety measures were in place.

"I am extremely pleased with the report," Mr Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Tokyo bid committee and the Japanese Olympic Committee, said.

"We will continue to study the highly positive report closely and review any areas we can make additional improvements as we prepare to host a superb Games in 2020."

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