After three four-day visits to the candidate cities and an intensive review of 12-volumes and 100-pages of technical bid details, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission for the 2020 Olympic bids hands over the ultimate decision to their general membership.
In Tuesday’s comprehensive report, the message to 100-or-so IOC members who will vote on September 7th is: they’re all capable – you decide.
Unlike many previous campaigns there were no obvious indications of major issues in the report, no surprises, and very little differentiation on the capabilities of Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.
That is, unless you dig a bit.
The report details the many strategies Istanbul will employ to reduce traffic congestion including Games timing, strategic clusters and multi-billion dollar infrastructure improvements.
But then there is this final note; “due to the estimated traffic growth the Commission believes that the risk of road congestion during the Games remains high.”
There have also been similar concerns with Tokyo’s traffic, and several strategies have been proposed. But the Commission dismissed any concern.
“The Commission believes that with Tokyo’s robust existing transport network, the compact nature of the concept and optimized and centralized traffic management systems, all client groups would have reasonable travel times.”
On Finance, one would expect the focus to be squarely on Madrid and Spain’s current recession.
The report had this to say; “the Commission believes that the degree of financial risk facing Madrid 2020 should be manageable over seven years within the overall Spanish economy and taking into account government guarantees.”
But For Istanbul, where the bid committee has been emphasizing Turkey’s strong, region-leading economic growth – comes a warning:
“While much investment is underway or planned regardless of the Games, the level of future investment might vary depending on the future performance of the Turkish economy.”
Tokyo’s $4.5 billion (USD) reserve fund, mentioned four times in the document, removes any financial issues off the table for the bid.
“The Games would benefit from the fact that a Hosting Reserve Fund which fully covers the non-OCOG investment has already been established.”
So while the report is largely technical, there are many examples where the Commission has taken some liberty by gazing into the proverbial crystal ball – a future where they apparently see a more difficult path to Istanbul.
Should the members choose to leverage the report to make their decision, it will be based on their interpretation and will likely come down to a personal opinion. Members are motivated by stories, themes and personalities – history proves that. Look no further than Sochi and Rio and you’ll see the difficult path is often chosen.
Another caveat is that the report is dated April 19, 2013, and the world can – and did – change in two months. Istanbul captured international headlines with anti-government protests.
In a press conference following the release of the report, Istanbul 2020 bid Chief Hasan Arat said the protests are “largely peaceful” and that people are exercising their “democratic rights”. But the violence at the outset of the demonstration and the subsequent arrests of journalists are material considerations about the bid.
But when it comes time to cast their ballots, the members might be sold on the vision. Istanbul’s motivational concept is on he first line of the report, “…to bring the Games to a vibrant, modern and culturally diverse city, with an 8,000 year history that spans Europe and Asia under the bid motto of ‘Bridge Together’.”
Tokyo’s is described a little less dramatically, “as a modern, dynamic city that sets global trends and, at the same time, has a strong respect for its history and culture Tokyo seeks to deliver well-organised and safe Games that would unite world-class innovation with traditional values under the motto of “Discover Tomorrow”.
And Madrid; the description of the vision is not even quotable – but it’s about reviving the economy and sharing a passion for sport.
But each bid leader believes they’ve got it right.
“This report confirms that Istanbul’s bid is firmly on track and we are grateful for the time and diligence that Sir Craig Reedie, Gilbert Felli and all the Evaluation Commission team have taken in preparing this comprehensive report,” Arat said.
“We particularly welcome the IOC’s clear endorsement of Istanbul’s unique strengths.”
Tokyo 2020 President Tsunekazu Takeda said: “I am extremely pleased with the report, which reflects the very positive and productive week we shared with the IOC team. We thank the members of the Evaluation Commission for visiting Tokyo and recognising so many positive aspects of the city that will allow us to deliver a superb Games.
At a press conference Tokyo 2020 CEO Masato Mizuno explained that he expects no changes to his campaign following the report.
“As I have read the report there are no major findings,” he said.
“Overall we have been evaluated very highly. That being the case, basically we believe that we can just go ahead with what we have been preparing, so we are very confident.”
Madrid 2020 President Alejandro Blanco said he was “satisfied” with the report.
He added “we have not won anything, we are where we are, and we have much work ahead. But the report recognizes the absolute viability of the project and we are ready.”
Next week the members will watch presentations in Lausanne and get a question-and-answer opportunity – these sessions will be behind closed doors. Then, in September it will be time to vote at a Session in Buenos Aires.
Now we know what a handful of members and technical experts think – but up to 100 people will be casting secret ballots. No one knows what they’re thinking.