Asian sweep at the Olympics?

Japan is having a very, very good time on the Olympic stage right now. Firstly, Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics. They had always been the favorite, but had to allay growing fears that Fukushima’s ongoing nuclear nightmare would not have any long-lasting effects for the country (though, in truth, they may have been helped more by a combination of Spain’s dreadful employment record and Turkey’s heavy-handed government). It also means Asia will host back-to-back Olympic Games, following Pyeongchang in 2018.

Secondly, wrestling has been reinstated into the Olympic schedule. Much has changed since February when wrestling looked set to lose out, but Japan will benefit hugely from this. Not only do they sit fourth in the all-time medal table for Olympic wrestling (third if you take out the now-defunct Soviet team), but they won four gold medals in London last year, a total matched only by Russia.

IOC Presidential hopefuls (clockwise from top left) Wu Ching-kuo (Taiwan), Denis Oswald (Switzerland), Sergei Bubka (Ukraine), Richard Carrión (Puerto Rico), Ng Ser Miang (Singapore), Thomas Bach (Germany). Photo credit: New York Times

The election of a new IOC President to replace Jacques Rogge is the final vote of significance which will take place at the current session in Buenos Aires. Thomas Bach of Germany is the frontrunner and has the crucial support of Sheikh Ahmad, but so far the votes have gone according to plan (Tokyo and wrestling were both expected) and that is often not the case with these secret votes.

So if Bach is not elected, could either of Asia’s two candidates – Taiwan’s Wu Ching-kuo or Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang – get the nod? Both are long-serving IOC members with an impressive CV, but this will come down to the behind-the-scenes lobbying, rather than public credentials. And it matters: as Ng said recently:

“You are electing cities every two years and a president every eight or 12 years. The impact of a president is much greater than the impact of the election of a city.”

The vote will take place on Tuesday, September 10. Logic dictates Bach will win, but whatever the result it has been an excellent few days for Asia – and Japan in particular.

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