BidIndex: Tokyo Leads; Race Tightens as 2020 Olympic Bid Enters Final Week

The race to host the Olympic Games in 2020 remains close and up-for-grabs according to the latest release of the GamesBids.com BidIndex. Still, numbers released Monday reveal that Tokyo has maintained a lead in the important index while Istanbul remains close and Madrid has gained ground.

It has been one of the most competitive Olympic bid races in years with no clear leader or outsider, but in less than a week members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina to decide the fates of three cities vying to host the Olympic Games in 2020. Their vote are the one that count.

For over ten years BidIndex has evaluated bids and scored them based on similarities to past winning bids as elected by the IOC.

In this latest update, the first since May 27, Tokyo’s score dropped marginally by 0.17 to 62.14. While recent news out of Japan has spread fears over the radioactive water leaks from the compromised Fukushima nuclear plant, IOC members usually persevere and instead look at the potential seven years ahead when the Games are to be held. Recent poll results that show 92% of people across Japan support the bid has helped buoy Tokyo’s position amid the other negative events.

But will the IOC want to return to Asia only two-years after the resort town of PyeongChang, South Korea hosts the Winter Games?

$4.5 billion in the bank, a compact city-centered venue plan and world-class infrastructure have also contributed to Tokyo’s favorable position; a bid that bid leaders describe as putting the Games “in a safe pair of hands”. Tokyo’s standing is up from a failed, third-place 2016 bid when it ended the campaign with an index of 59.02.

Included in this update are the results of the IOC evaluation report released in June just prior to presentations to members in Lausanne.

Since the last update Turkey has had negative press of its own. Anti-government demonstrations that dominated the international news in July and numerous doping violations against Turkish Olympians in August have cast shadows on Istanbul’s dream to host the Games after five tries.

But the impact to Istanbul’s BidIndex was minimal, dropping 0.51 to 61.45.

Istanbul’s growing economy, rapidly expanding infrastructure and promise to “bridge together” much more than Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus has helped create a compelling story arc through the two-year campaign. Now it will be up to the IOC to decide whether they want to award the first Games to the Islamic world.

Istanbul remains above its previous bid that scored 59.02 when it was excluded from the 2012 short list. For 2008, the final index was 53.94 as the city placed fourth.

Madrid was the biggest gainer this time around finishing up 2.27 to 58.76, boosted by a favorable evaluation report and strong presentation to IOC members in Lausanne. This score leaves the bid better than its final score of 57.80 achieved while finishing second to Rio in the 2016 campaign. Madrid’s best BidIndex score of 61.22 occurred during the 2012 campaign when the city narrowly missed the final ballot due to a voting mishap that insiders believe cost the Spanish city the Games; they went to London instead.

Although it’s the lowest score among the three candidates, it’s the highest for Madrid during the campaign and recent developments have given the city all important-momentum in this race and votes may still be shifting in Spain’s direction. As the competitors begin to converge, it has become clear that presentations by the bids on the final campaign day in Buenos Aires may be more important than ever before.

Punters seem to agree with the BidIndex analysis. Within a week of the vote, British bookmaker Ladbrokes reported odds of 2/5 for Tokyo, and 3/1 for both Istanbul and Madrid. Intertops has also set the line on Tokyo at 2/5 but is taking bets on Istanbul at 11/4 and Madrid at 5/1.

Interestingly, the so-called smart-money is usually wrong. For 2012, most gamblers had their money on Paris before it fell to London. For 2016 – more cash was down on Chicago, the fourth place finisher, than on Rio, the winner. But both Olympic bid winners Rio for 2016 and PyeongChang for 2018 also had the best BidIndex score on election day.

For comparison, Rio de Janeiro won the 2016 Games with a leading score of 61.42; London won 2012 with a second place score of 65.07.

BidIndex is not intended to rate the bids based solely on technical quality, but on how the bids will perform based on IOC voting patterns. History has proven that the best technical bids often do not win but other factors such as geopolitics usually have a significant impact.

The IOC will vote for their 2020 Games host on Saturday, September 7 at 18:30 local time in Buenos Aires. That morning, each city will have 45 minutes to present and 15 minutes to respond to questions from members before final ballots are cast.

Full BidIndex details can be found on the BidIndex results page or contact info(at)GamesBids.com for more information.

Tokyo 62.14 (down 0.17)

Istanbul 61.45 (down 0.51)

Madrid 58.76 (up 2.27)