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2020 Olympics host city to be Tokyo or Istanbul; Madrid out
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The 2020 Olympics will be held in either Tokyo or Istanbul after Madrid was eliminated in the first round of Saturday’s voting by the IOC.
Madrid initially tied with Istanbul as an also-ran in the secret balloting by the International Olympic Committee. Istanbul won a tiebreak vote 49-45.
The IOC then immediately voted between the Japanese and Turkish cities in a second round, and IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that one received a winning majority. The winner was to be announced at a ceremony at about 2015 GMT (4:15 EDT).
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, is bidding for a second straight time. This is Istanbul’s fifth overall bid.
In their final presentations, Tokyo made its case as the “safe pair of hands,” Madrid as the least-expensive option, and Istanbul as an historic opportunity to bring the Olympics to a predominantly Muslim country for the first time.
Madrid, bidding for a third straight time, had seemed to have gained the most momentum in recent weeks despite Spain’s economic crisis and 27 percent unemployment rate. The Madrid team claimed the games would pose no financial risk because most of the venues were already built.
Tokyo has been considered a slight favorite but has been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign amid mounting concerns about the leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
“Some may have concerns about Fukushima,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in English. “Let me assure you the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”
Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg asked for more assurances.
“It poses no problem whatsoever,” Abe said in Japanese, adding that the contamination was limited to a small area and had been “completely blocked.”
“There are no health related problems until now, nor will there be in the future,” he said. “I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co., Fukushima’s operator, has acknowledged that tons of radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific from the plant for more than two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at three of its reactors. Recent leaks from tanks storing radioactive water used to cool the reactors have added to fears that the amount of contaminated water is getting out of hand.
Tokyo continued to portray itself as the safe choice at a time of global political and economic uncertainty.
“Tokyo can be trusted to be the safe pair of hands and much more,” bid leader and IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda said. “Our case today is simple. Vote for Tokyo and you vote for guaranteed delivery. … Tokyo is the right partner at the right time.”
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