The announcement of the next host city for an Olympic Games is not something that creeps up on you by surprise. Precisely seven years before each Olympics, there is a very carefully choreographed announcement, during which the IOC President reveals the winning city. It’s very hard to confuse which city has won. The IOC broadcasts this live. If you don’t hear the announcement, then the President holds up the name of the city, and the director cuts to shots of the winning delegation and host city for immediate reaction and celebration.
So how on earth did China’s official news agency Xinhua put out a statement that Istanbul, not Tokyo, would host the 2020 Olympics? Media outlets in China (most of them state-run) are trained to go with official Xinhua releases whenever there is big news of any description (or any news, really). If Xinhua says that black is white, well, then black must be white.
According to this South China Morning Post report, the People’s Daily website said Xinhua sent a flash at 3.10am China time on Sunday morning saying Istanbul had won. The only thing that Istanbul “won” was a first-round tiebreaker against Madrid in the battle to be smoked by Tokyo in the second round. But the erroneous report made it out onto at least one TV station, and at least one newspaper (see the Changsha Evening News below).
The deputy chief editor of the paper hilariously ‘complained that Xinhua should “reflect on the mistake” and consider the losses it had caused to the newspaper nationwide’. Something tells me he later got his wrists slapped.
While we’re on the topic of Olympic errors, this BBC screenshot should not pass without a mention. Although I can’t confirm its authenticity, an Olympic friend posted it on Facebook and I have no reason to believe it is fake. Jacques Rogge has been in power for 12 years. His name has not changed during that time.