Tokyo Named as Host of 2020 Summer Olympics, Paralympics

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, September 7. AFTER some serious pomp and circumstance, including a trio of strong host city presentations today, the International Olympic Committee selected Tokyo as the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Tokyo beat out Madrid and Istanbul for the hosting honors.

Tokyo was the only city among the three finalists to have served as Olympic Games host, putting on the event in 1964 to rave reviews. Tokyo’s bid put a strong emphasis on the future while remembering its past as Olympic host.

Three of the venues used in 1964 will be refurbished for the 2020 Games and placed in the Heritage Zone. The Tokyo Bay Zone will include the new aquatics center which will give the city two major 50-meter competition pools. This will likely ease the strain of countries trying to find suitable training locations in the days before the Olympics.

Members of the bid committee, in today’s presentation, thanked the IOC for reaching out during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that continues to affect the country. Paralympic champion Mami Sato spoke about how “sport saved my life,” and how Japanese athletes reached out to those affected by the tsunami.

Tokyo won the final round with 60 votes against Istanbul’s 36.

#BA2013 voting results final round #olympics2020— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) September 7, 2013

The first round had Tokyo ahead, with Istanbul and Madrid tying for second. Istanbul then eliminated Madrid with 49 out of the 95 votes available on the first round. As first pointed out by a friend of Swimming World Nick Zaccardi, the NBC Sports Olympic beat writer, that meant that Tokyo had a hand in picking its competition in the final round.

Interesting w/tiebreaking vote, essentially that meant the pro-Tokyo voters decided which would be Tokyo’s opponent in final round, right?– Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) September 7, 2013

Swimming World’s own Jeff Commings took a look at all three bids, selecting Tokyo as the favorite, last night. Here’s his impressive look into the bid cities:


Pros: The major advantage that Tokyo has on Istanbul and Madrid is their previous job as host in 1964. Various reports have described those Games as a rousing success, and Tokyo is one of the few cities to keep a majority of the venues from 1964. The strength of this year’s bid is Tokyo’s Heritage Zone, which includes three of the venues used in 1964, including the venue for swimming. The stadium used for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as for track and field, in 1964 will be completely remodeled into a sleek and stylish venue that is likely to be one of the icons of the Games. The Tokyo Bay Zone will be the main hub of the 2020 Olympics, with 22 venues in use. Some of these buildings already exist in Tokyo, while some will be built if the city gets the hosting job. The aquatic center is one of those planned new facilities, with seating for 20,000 spectators, about 2,500 more than fit in the London Aquatics Centre. Tokyo already has a prime aquatics facility in the Tatsumi International Swimming Centre, but if the bid book is any indication, the new pool will be a wonder to behold and make the city a major Asian hub for aquatic competitions.

Cons: With London getting the Games in 2012 for a third time, the IOC might not be keen on giving the 2020 Games to a city that’s been there, done that. Plus, the Games were just in Asia (Beijing in 2008), so it might not be time to come back to Asia.


Pros: Only once has an Olympic Games been held on two continents at the same time, and that was during the 1956 Olympics, when a horse quarantine in Australia required the equestrian events to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, five months before the actual Olympics. This would be the first time that the Olympics would be held simultaneously on different continents, with Istanbul straddling the Europe-Asia border. That’s an appealing situation for the city, as its motto for the Games is “Bridge Together.” It’s fitting not just for the physical bridge that exists between continents, but the metaphorical bridging of cultures the Olympics always hopes to create. The region has never hosted an Olympic Games, which also gives Istanbul an advantage. Like its pick for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the IOC could use Istanbul as a way to show it wants to make history with Olympic bids. (The troubles currently facing the Rio 2016 organizers are probably outweighing the historic implications of having an Olympic Games in South America.) This would be an extraordinary opportunity for Istanbul to lead the growth of sport in the Middle East, a part of the world too strife with conflict to concentrate on huge sporting events. (More on that later.) Part of that opportunity is creating the planned 18,000-seat aquatic center that would need to rival Dubai’s in terms of beauty, functionality and size. The artist’s rendering is very reminiscent of the Water Cube with its flashy ceiling, and it appears that its design attempts to bring spectators closer to the action, which could make for more exciting racing. As for open water swimming, I’m not sure if the marathon swimming course will allow the swimmers to cross the aquatic border for Europe and Asia in the Bosporus Strait, but that could make the 10K race thrilling for athletes and spectators.

Cons: Istanbul is an attractive place to host an Olympic Games, with its link to the past and hope for a vibrant future. But I fear the legacy of the Olympic Games in Istanbul will be short-lived, much as it was in such cities as Athens and Munich. As I mentioned before, political and religious conflict in the area (especially in Syria) is a huge concern. Though Syria is on Turkey’s eastern border while Istanbul is in northwestern Turkey, the IOC is likely to take the current situation into consideration when casting their votes tomorrow. If Turkey is given the bid, it might provide the impetus for the region to stop the fighting, or for the stronger nations around the world to demand it for the sake of the Games.

MADRID — Out after tie-breaker vote following first round

Pros: Though Madrid has never hosted an Olympic Games, Spain knows how to put on the world’s biggest sporting event, having hosted the Games in Barcelona in 1992. Madrid is considered the more affluent city in Spain, and this bid seems to be an attempt to give Spain another major city to host sporting events outside of soccer (football). The 1992 Olympics gave Barcelona the edge in terms of being a sport hub for Europe and the rest of the world, and Madrid’s bid is a push to bring the world’s attention further inland. Madrid seems to have more venues already in place for 2020: 28 out of a planned 35 facilities already exist in Madrid. According to Madrid’s bid book, the facility to be used for aquatic sports already exists, with a plan to upgrade it to the necessary seating capacity and fulfill the requirements of FINA and the IOC. That will definitely keep costs low. And the venues promise to be in close proximity, allowing spectators to see more sports easily. The main stadium and the aquatic center are separated by a few hundred yards, which could make congestion an issue when swimming and track and field overlap, but will make that area a major hub of excitement for two weeks. Most of the venues will be built in an area of town that has been described as in need of much renovation, as was the case with downtown Atlanta in 1996, and if Madrid gets the nod, it could provide a boon for the city’s expansion.

Cons: Madrid is in the center of Spain. That’s not good news for open water swimmers. As it was in 2008, the 10K swim will be held in the rowing basin, a man-made tank in which nature will not create a true open-water course. Swimming in such a course was a major complaint among open water swimmers in the debut Olympic event. I would have been OK with Madrid handing off the open water swimming duties to Barcelona, which did a great job of putting on open water competition in the Moll de Fusta this past summer at the world championships.

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