Date: 06 Sep 2013, Science, Technology and Culture
Question setter: John Karslake

2020 Olympics

There are three candidate cities for the 2020 summer Olympics - Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee will elect the host city on 7 September 2013. Will Tokyo be the winner?


Answer: Yes
Confidence level: 44%
Mean confidence level (all requests): 33.50%

Tokyo is the city with the work ethic and wealth required to create a fabulous 2020 games and host it successfully. Despite problems with radiation from Fukushima, they should convince the IOC committee that Japan is the safest option.
Istanbul has been scuppered by anti-government protests, its proximity to Syria and overflowing middle-east tensions and by doping scandals. With this background it is unlikely to succeed in wooing the athletes to its cause.
Madrid is a strong candidate, having already built some 80% of the required infrastructure. Yet a return of the games to Europe might not be favoured for that soon and Spain is still in recession with little apparent prospect of shedding its debt problems in the near future. Huge levels of unemployment and attendant disenchantment could be threats to an Olympic programme, in the eyes of the committee. A strong case would be needed to show that investment in the games would boost the economy and that it would be supported by the people.
Overall the threats in the west do not look powerful enough to knock the Japanese off track. The 2020 games will go to Tokyo.

Outcome: Yes
Score: 44
Mean score (all respondents): -6.50

Expert opinion:

Answer: No

Selected Expert Answer from John Karslake:
Each of the three competing cities have taken turns to be front runner. Istanbul looked very strong until Turkish protests were harshly handled. The negative reaction to those events seems to have completely outweighed positive sentiment that Istanbul would be the city that would benefit most, and would be able to make the progress needed, to deliver a great games. Tokyo then became clear favourite. It boasted efficient infrastructure, experience in hosting global sporting events and financial guarantees. But claims that Tokyo "is one of the world's safest and most welcoming cities" are undermined by high levels of radiation detected at the Fukushima plant. The Japanese are fighting hard to restore lost credibility. So now Madrid looks good. The Spanish have already spent billions on the construction of 35 projects - 80% of which have been completed. Olympic investment will help turn their economy. The bid outcome now hinges on whether the Spanish convince the IOC that their cheaper plan - a budget of just €2.4bn - is adequate, given the infrastructure they already have in place. Istanbul's challenges on frugality may be too little to overcome concerns of political unrest. My view is that radiation fears have spoilt Japan's efficiency claim and Madrid will win.

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Mettletest Panellist:
Tokyo has been the favourite to win, based on their strong infrastructure, financial muscle and proven ability to host global sporting events. Spain's economic woes will make the IOC anxious. The Brazilian backlash against spending on the world cup could be echoed in Spain, where 27% are unemployed. Many will not be convinced that the money is best spent on sports venues. Istanbul has probably been ruled out by large public protests and the suppression to control them. It needs a leap of faith to envisage Turkey creating the organisation for building the infrastructure.
There are threats to Tokyo's chances. Press questions to their delegation focus on the radiation risks from Fukushima. Even if delegates see no direct threat to athletes or visitors, the nuclear plant disaster mocks Japanese efficiency and reliability claims. Madrid has made a virtue of the sports infrastructure already in place and the low budget needed to complete preparations. This should resonate with the IOC, seeking to limit escalating costs. Istanbul claims to match or beat that low budget. It wants to persuade the committee that long-term advantages will be gained from hosting the games on the East-West bridge with a predominantly Muslim population. Ultimately, money talks and Tokyo will seem the safe bet.

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Mettletest Panel:
With two days to go before the IOC announces the winner, OddsChecker had around 44% of bets laid on Tokyo, 32% on Madrid and 21% on Istanbul. This accurately reflects the slickness of the Japanese campaign and the comparative power they have in finance and perceived capability to deliver. Known for completing big infrastructure projects, they must be seen as the safest option for the Olympic committee. Their geographical position amongst powerful economies should help too. Despite assertions that the IOC would like to see spending on the games moderated, the relative economic weakness of Spain and Turkey will count against them. They have both tried to gain favour on the cheapness of their proposed budgets. Both have already spent billions preparing, so attest that much of what's needed is in place. Political unrest threatens both Spain and Turkey. The dire state of Spain's finances and the high levels of unemployment could produce instability. Turkey has seen clashes over the increasingly Islamist dictates of its government and huge demonstrations are fresh in the minds of all. Istanbul's chances have probably been ruled out by this. Provided Tokyo is not derailed by awkward questions over the handling of radiation leaks from Fukushima, it will be announced as the winner on the 7th.

Outcome: Yes

Comment on outcome from Mettletest Panellist:
Tokyo won by a comfortable margin. The Japanese capital won by 60 votes to Istanbul’s 36 in the final ballot, Madrid having gone out in the first round of voting. Tokyo was the most praised city after the technical report by the IOC evaluation commission. It was consistently regarded as the frontrunner until concerns over the handling of radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant shook faith in their efficiency claims. A direct presentation by PM Abe overcame the doubts. Money, stability and geography all contributed to the win. Tokyo's commercial strength and reliability, with the Far East regarded as an area of growing importance, defeated the challengers. Madrid's economic woes and cheap bid failed to impress, despite IOC claims they want to curb the escalating cost. Istanbul might have fared better but for the recent protests against Erdogan's government.
Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympics.