Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My view on 2020 Summer Olympics bids

The host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics will be elected on 7 September 2013. The candidate cities are Istanbul in Turkey, Tokyo in Japan, and Madrid in Spain. Tokyo was already my initial favorite, I like Japan and I believe they can host well big events. But I also liked the idea of Istanbul hosting the Olympics; Turkey hasn't hosted major sports events very often. Madrid was my least favorite to host the games; Spain is the latest country of the bidders to have hosted Summer Olympics, in Barcelona in 1992.

Talking about the venues, Madrid is my favorite because they have more venues already existing than Tokyo or Istanbul. Too often Olympics leave venues that become white elephants with little use after the games. As Madrid has so many of the venues already now, I believe the risk of white elephant syndrome is the smallest.

Madrid is also a compact project. All of the venues located in Madrid would be within 10 kilometers from the city center. On the other hand, Madrid is the only candidate city located in the inland. That's why the sailing events have to be held in Valencia, over 300 kilometers away from Madrid. Istanbul and Tokyo could host also sailing events in the host city.

Also Tokyo would be a compact project. 85% of competition venues and 70% of training venues would be within 8 kilometers from the Olympic Village. Istanbul wouldn't be as compact a project as the venues would be within 30 kilometers from the Olympic Village.

The Olympic Stadium is maybe the most prominent venue of the Olympics. Istanbul is planning an unusual solution for the opening and closing ceremonies, they are not going to have them at the athletics stadium like usually. Instead they are going to build a 70,000-seat stadium for the ceremonies even though the existing Atatürk Olympic Stadium for athletics would have 76,000 seats. That would be only the third time when the athletics stadium isn’t the Olympic Stadium at the Summer Olympics, the Vélodrome de Vincennes was the Olympic Stadium at the 1900 Paris Olympics and the Maracanã football stadium will be the Olympic Stadium at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The ceremony stadium in Istanbul would be situated at the Bosphorus and there would be a view to the Bosphorus. It would definitely look great but my initial worry was whether there would be post-Olympics need for a stadium that isn’t made to accommodate a running track or a football pitch. At least they would reduce the seating capacity to more reasonable 20,000 after the games, so maybe a separate ceremony stadium isn’t such a bad idea.

Tokyo would have the same Olympic Stadium they had when they previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964. The stadium will be reconstructed for the 2019 Rugby World Cup increasing the seating capacity from about 50,000 to about 80,000. Madrid’s Olympic Stadium would be Estadio La Peineta which is currently being expanded from 20,000 seats to 70,000 to become football club Atlético Madrid’s home stadium in 2015.

As a tennis fan, I am interested in the tennis venues, even though tennis is one of my least favorite sports at the Olympics. I think Spain would be the best possible country to host the Olympic tennis; they are probably the most important tennis nation without a slam, the Olympics would be their chance to host something almost as important as a slam. Also, Madrid’s tennis venue Caja Mágica has clay courts so we might see Olympic tennis on clay; previously there have been clay courts only at the 1993 Olympics in Barcelona.

The tennis venue in Tokyo would be the Ariake Coliseum. It currently has DecoTurf hard courts, and that probably wouldn’t change for the Olympics, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 were played on DecoTurf as it prepares players for the US Open played on the same surface. For that reason, I believe also Istanbul would have the Olympic tennis on DecoTurf hard courts, they don’t have an existing venue with another surface like London last year and Barcelona in 1992 had.

I found the proposed dates for the games in the IOC’s Evaluation Commission report. Istanbul and Madrid have proposed to hold the games from 7 to 23 August, i.e. the same weeks as Beijing 2008. Tokyo has proposed to hold the games two weeks earlier from 24 July to 9 August, i.e. the same weeks as London 2012. That affects to the Olympic sports’ competition calendars. In tennis that would obviously mean that Tokyo would host the Olympics before the Canadian and Cincinnati Masters events. Istanbul and Madrid would host the Olympics between those Masters events and the US Open. I am afraid that the latter scenario could weaken the field at the Olympic tennis. Players would have to travel from the USA to another continent for the Olympics and then back to the USA for the US Open. Some players might be reluctant to do that ahead of a slam, especially if the Olympics were played on clay in Madrid. That would mean a transition from hard courts to clay and back to hard courts.

I think the host nation succeeding is important for the atmosphere of sports events. Of these three bidding nations, Japan has been the most successful in the recent Olympic Games; Japanese athletes won 38 medals at last year’s Summer Olympics, Spanish athletes won 17 medals and Turkish athletes five medals. On the other hand, host nations may be more willing for doping as they have the pressure to succeed at their home Olympics. That’s why I think a bidding nation shouldn’t have any recent doping scandals like Turkey and Spain have had during the past year. Numerous Turkish athletes have been caught from doping during the past year. In Spain, Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes was convicted over doping offences but the court didn’t allow his clients to be named, which caused cover-up speculations. Because of those scandals, I believe Japan would be the most likely to host clean Olympics, at least when it comes to the home team. Moreover, I think the IOC could punish countries with doping scandals by not awarding them the games.

Yet another reason for why I think Tokyo would be the best host city is that I think Japan is a better place for the 2020 Olympics than Turkey or Spain. There were big demonstrations in Turkey this summer, something which I don’t think should happen in an Olympic host country. Spain, on the other hand, is a country in a financial crisis. Another crisis country, Italy, were also bidding for the 2020 games but withdrew their bid because of their financial situation. That’s why I think neither Spain should get the games.

So, Tokyo is my favorite. They have the most compact bid and I think Japan is the best country of the bidders to host the Olympics. I would prefer Madrid’s bid as they have most venues already existing. Unfortunately I don’t think Spain would be the best country to host the Olympics in 2020 because of their financial crisis. What I think is Tokyo’s problem is that there would be two consecutive Olympic Games in Eastern Asia; South Korea’s Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Olympics. But I don’t think that should be a problem, Greece’s Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics and Italy’s Torino the 2006 Winter Olympics so there were two consecutive Olympic Games in Mediterranean countries.

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