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Live Report: the 2020 Olympics

September 8, 2013 at 1:09 am | News Desk

A view of Istanbul's final presentation at the IOC meeting in Buenos AiresBUENOS AIRES: 1955 GMT: In Istanbul, a Japanese traveller, Yoshihide Kadono, 20, mingling with the anxious and excited crowds, personified the Olympic spirit. “I’m supporting both cities,” he said. “For sure, I favor Japan — but Japan has already had the Games before. I would be very happy for Turks if Istanbul wins.”

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, AFP’s Shigemi Sato reports that with the formal announcement imminent, tension is really building in the pre-dawn hours. Around 20 youngsters who have helped the bid are on stage at an official event in front of 1,200 people, chanting for Tokyo.

1945 GMT: “Istanbul garnered 49 of the 94 votes cast in the tie-breaker to keep their hopes alive… Madrid’s exit recalled the shock of Chicago’s first round exit in the vote for the 2016 Games won by Rio de Janeiro four years ago.”

1940 GMT: If you’re just joining us: The IOC, meeting in Buenos Aires, has selected by secret vote the city that will host the 2020 summer Olympics — and it’s either Istanbul or Tokyo.

Madrid, which tried but failed to win the 2012 and 2016 Games, struck out in a nail-biting tie-breaking vote against Istanbul.

The IOC will formally announce the winning city within the hour.

1930 GMT: In Tokyo, about 200 people connected with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo Olympic bid committee and sporting circles including Olympic medallists are attending all-night event at the auditorium of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, AFP Tokyo news editor Huw Griffith reports. Several Japanese TV networks are carrying live coverage. All eyes there on Buenos Aires, a dozen time zones away.

1923 GMT: It’s coming on 4:30 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo, which could wake up to discover it’s once again an Olympic host city. But in Istanbul it’s almost 10:30 p.m. Saturday — and the excitement on the street is palpable.

“I’m sure Istanbul is going to win, because those who voted for Madrid in the first round are going to support Istanbul,” said Mustafa Alkan with tears in his eyes, speaking to AFP in the crowd. “It’s a question of Mediterranean solidarity. I would be so happy for a Muslim country to host the Games.”

1915 GMT: AFP’s Madrid team reports: “Crowds at Puerta de Alcala fall silent in shock at elimination. Looks of bewilderment on people’s faces. Some people release the red balloons they were holding.” Only minutes earlier, amid the tie-breaking vote, the throng had been chanting: “Yes we can!”

A single face captures a nation's disappointment as Madrid fails again to win the chance to host the Olympics

A single face captures a nation’s disappointment as Madrid fails again to win the chance to host the Olympics

1905 GMT: We have a winner — but we have to wait until 5 pm Buenos Aires time for the formal announcement.

1902 GMT: Istanbul wins the tie-breaker. Madrid is eliminated. On to the final round of voting.

1859 GMT: Philippe Alfroy reports growing crowds in Istanbul as well, watching the voting attentively on public TV screens. The suspense must be intense, as the IOC deals with the non-functioning of a member’s voting device.

1857 GMT: It’s a tie between Istanbul and Madrid. A tie-breaking vote is taking place.

1855 GMT: Less than a minute has passed, and the first round of voting is now closed.

1854 GMT: IOC director general Christophe de Kepper has declared the vote open.

1850 GMT: Procedural rules are being explained before the voting begins in a matter of minutes.

1845 GMT: My colleagues at AFP Madrid are out on the streets where anticipation is growing ahead of the IOC decision, with thousands of hopeful Spaniards gathered around giant TV screens.

“Revellers of all ages sang, danced or simply stood transfixed by the action in Buenos Aires relayed on huge screens erected by the granite arches of the city gate, Puerta de Alcala,” Madrid bureau chief David Williams reports..

“Thousands of people, many clutching red balloons, filled the Plaza de la Independencia square where the gate stands and poured into a nearby avenue. Musical groups played on a large stage erected in the square, which adjoins central Madrid’s leafy Retiro park. Flags fluttered nearby reading: ‘United for a Dream’.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leads Tokyo’s bid team at the IOC meeting in Buenos Aires
© AFP Alexander Hassenstein
1835 GMT: Much of the day so far has been taken up with the candidate cities making their final pitches, my colleague Pirate Irwin reports from Buenos Aires.

First on stage was Istanbul, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan casting the fabled city’s bid as an opportunity for the ever-restive Middle East to turn a corner.

“There is a quest for peace in our region,” Erdogan said, “and I see the Olympic Rings as being a powerful partner for that, symbolising peace, friendship and partnership.”

1840 GMT: Next on stage was Tokyo, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying the situation at Fukushima, about 200 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital, was “under control… It has never done or will do damage to Tokyo.”

He added: “Today under the blue sky of Fukushima there are young boys playing football and looking into the future and not the past.”

Madrid was last to put its case forward, stressing that 28 of the 35 required Games venues have already been constructed and all the infrastructure is in place.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who like Abe flew in from the G20 summit in Russia, said: “Madrid offers a safe, solid and reliable bid … (and) probably the most reasonable financial Olympic bid in history.”

Hello and welcome to AFP’s Live Report on the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires that will decide which city — Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo — will host the 2020 summer Olympics.

A girl smiles at street events in support of Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Olympics
© AFP Pedro Armestre
The winner is due to be announced at around 2000 GMT by outgoing IOC president Jacques Rogge, after one of the closest races between potential host cities in Olympic history.

If Istanbul wins, it would make Turkey the first predominantly Muslim nation ever to host the Games — but the conflict in neighboring Syria plus domestic political uncertainty could harm its chances.

Tokyo hosted the Games in 1964, an event that marked its post-World War II reinvention as a global economic and industrial powerhouse — but news of fresh leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant might be a negative factor.

That leaves Madrid, which finished third and second for the 2012 and 2016 Games. Spain has been hard hit by Europe’s economic doldrums, but hosting the world’s premier sports event could be a welcome morale booster.

Beijing hosted the Games in 2008, then London in 2012. It’ll be Rio de Janeiro’s turn in 2016.

The final decision is in the hands of the unpredictable IOC electorate. Ninety-seven of its members are eligible to vote in the first round — but their counterparts from the three cities’ countries cannot.

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