12 years after China’s Olympic coming out party, Tokyo is aiming to be the next Asian city to host a Summer Olympics as one of three candidate cities for 2020. And the signs are looking good.
On September 7 in Buenos Aires, IOC President Jacques Rogge will declare victory for one of Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid, and, if the bookmakers are to be believed, Tokyo is the favorite, noticeably ahead of Istanbul and significantly ahead of Madrid.
The IOC announced this week that Tokyo would be the first of the three cities to receive the Evaluation Committee (March 4-7), ahead of September’s election when Japan hopes to make it back-to-back Olympics for Asia, following South Korea’s 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and the third Asian Olympics in seven editions.
If selected, it would be Tokyo’s second Olympics, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, along with Athletics and other featured finals, would be held in the Kasumigaoka National Stadium, which was originally built for the city’s first Olympics in 1964.
Despite the geographical similarities, Tokyo 2020 would differ greatly from Beijing 2008. For a start, most of Tokyo’s venues are already in place.
China welcomed the sporting world’s spotlight for the first time in 2008, but Japan is no stranger to such attention. Aside from Tokyo’s previous Olympic Games, Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup and will also host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Politically, things would be very different. Five years ago in the build-up to the Games, much of the focus from outside China was on the usual suspects: human rights, censorship, potential protests etc. In Tokyo, the focus would be back on sport.
Economically, too, the differences would be apparent, or as apparent as can be when one side of the comparison involves opaque Chinese data. But Tokyo’s costs for stadia and infrastructure would be far lower, since far less needs to be built, and I’d wager they wouldn’t have a problem with ticket sales.
You have to feel a little sorry for Madrid, though. This is shaping up to be their third consecutive rejection after failed bids for 2012 and 2016, and their fourth overall. It makes you wonder when the Spaniards will get the message.