It was meant to be too close to call, one of the tightest races the International Olympic Committee had ever voted on, but Tokyo last night delivered a crushing victory to win the right to stage the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
The Japanese capital vaporised Madrid and Istanbul in rain-swept Buenos Aires, the latter after it threatened to pull off a shock triumph following a dramatic tie with its Spanish rival in the first round of voting.
Tokyo’s final margin of victory over Istanbul was a massive 24 votes, 60 to 32, giving the hosts of the 1964 Olympic Games the honour of being the fifth city to stage them twice.
The announcement of the result sparked inevitable scenes of jubilation among its bid team, with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe claiming he was more elated than after his own election: “I am overjoyed. I would like to share this jot together with the Japanese people back home.”
Its first-round success was almost as emphatic, Tokyo gaining 42 votes to Istanbul and Madrid’s 26 apiece, just six short of the outright majority required to eliminate the need for a second round of voting.
In the end, there were three rounds, with the tie between Madrid and Istanbul prompting a vote-off, which the latter won 49 to 45.
Madrid had been tipped to push Tokyo all the way and its early elimination was a major surprise, as was the margin of the Japanese capital’s victory.
Senior IOC members were last night crediting its victory to the perception it was a “safe” pair of hands compared to the riskier Madrid and Istanbul.
The latter two’s final presentations were also followed by serious questions about their dubious doping records – from British member Adam Pengilly.
Outgoing President Jacques Rogge said: “It is clear that the IOC members pay a lot of attention to the situation in the fight against doping.”
Despite the widespread belief members usually decide which way to vote long before the final presentations, it seems yesterday’s may have had as much of an influence as when London stunned Paris to land the 2012 Games eight years ago.
Tokyo’s began with what was thought to be its trump card when Princess Takamodo became the first member of Japan’s royal family to address the IOC, a major coup for the bid.
But the princess was immediately upstaged by Paralympian Mami Sato, who delivered the most emotionally-charged speech of the entire day, talking candidly about how sport had rescued her from the depth of “despair” after she lost her right leg to cancer.
She also spoke about her home town being struck by the 2011 Japanese tsunami and how “Olympic values” had helped it to recover.
That raised the spectre of the one major controversy to haunt Tokyo’s bid, the ongoing leak from the Fukushima nuclear power station that has contaminated the water around the plant.
Japan’s prime minister confronted the issue head on, saying: “The situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”
Inevitably pressed further in the Q&A, he gave “emphatic and unequivocal” assurances that the leak posed zero risk to health.
Madrid’s pitch conveyed a similar message about Spain’s economic crisis, which it thought it had turned into a positive by pitching a low-budget Games and reinforcing that 80% of its infrastructure was already in place because of its previous bids.
“Madrid makes sense,” was repeated constantly during what was a surprisingly underwhelming presentation until Crown Prince Felipe, a darling of the IOC, delivered a rousing finale.
However, the Madrid bid team were ambushed in the Q&A by Pengilly, who raised the spectre of the Operation Puerto doping saga and a Spanish court’s decision to destroy blood evidence.
Its bid team failed to provide a satisfactory response.
Neither did that of Istanbul, which attempted to address its recent doping scandal, announcing new legislation to prosecute “anyone who promotes the use of drugs by our athletes”.
It began its pitch by reminding the IOC that the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron de Coubertin, said the movement had a “responsibility” to spread the Games to new regions.
It highlighted its youth-focused culture and growing economy, insisting its £12.8 billion budget was not excessive compared to those of Tokyo (£2.6bn) and Madrid (£1.2bn) because almost all of it was being invested regardless of the Games.
However, it danced around the other two issues that have dogged its campaign, this summer’s anti-government protests and riots and the escalating crisis in neighbouring Syria.
Istanbul did attempt to address its recent doping scandal, announcing new legislation to prosecute “anyone who promotes the use of drugs by our athletes”.
All three presentations borrowed heavily from London successful pitch for the 2012 Olympics and Tokyo vowed to draw further inspiration when it came to hosting the Games.
Bid president Tsunekazu Takeda said: “More than anything, people of the United Kingdom were all fully supporting the London Games.
“A Passionate Olympic Games is something that we would like to emulate in 2020.”
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