The threat of radiation, a leaking of some International Olympic Committee (IOC) members’ alleged voting intentions and microscopic interrogation of doping policy focused the minds of the three cities bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday.
The Tokyo bid team found themselves unable to move on and regain some momentum ahead of the vote in Buenos Aires by the IOC members tomorrow on who will host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Their press conference was dominated by questions over the potential fallout from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and none of the answers provided by their bid chief Tsunekazu Takeda proved adequate for the audience.
Eventually the 65-year-old, having spoken in English for most of the press conference and clearly getting exasperated by the questioning, resorted to Japanese to try and resolve the matter.
“At this point the [Japanese] Prime Minister [Shinzo Abe] will participate in the final presentation and will talk about this issue and provide reassurance to the IOC about the food etcetera,” he said. “There is no issue here. Not one person in Tokyo has been affected by this issue. Tokyo and Fukushima are almost 250km apart. We are quite remote from Fukushima.”
Madrid too saw its seemingly perpetual momentum briefly stopped in its tracks as a Spanish paper, El Mundo, published names — some with photos — of up to 50 IOC members who it saidwere going to vote for the Spanish bid.
While 50 votes would give Madrid an unlikely win in the first round of voting, the revelations did not sit well with the members who vote in a secret ballot. History suggests Madrid might still win as Le Parisien newspaper released a similar story in 2005 about the English bid, prior to the vote on last year’s games’ hosts, and London edged Paris in a shock result.
One senior IOC member said the revelations in El Mundo had gone down “like a lead balloon” with the members, and one whose name was on the list joked it did not augur well for Madrid as he has not voted for the winning city for the past several Summer Games votes.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said he did not believe that Madrid would suffer from the revelations.
“I would say that one shouldn’t pay any attention or give credit to this type of information,” said the 71-year-old who was giving his final solo press conference before he steps down on Sept. 10 after 12 years in charge. “Only the person who presses the button [the way the IOC members vote] on Saturday [tomorrow] knows how they are going to vote. It won’t harm Madrid’s bid because my colleagues don’t give this type of information any credence either.”
The third candidate city, Istanbul, underwent a tough examination of their policy on doping, especially in the light of a swathe of positive tests this year — 31 athletes have tested positive. However, Turkish IOC member Ugur Erdener — a doctor by profession and who has led the fight against doping in his country — insisted that the zero tolerance attitude adopted by him and the Turkish government meant that progress was being made.
“Doping analyses are related to technological development,” the 63-year-old said. “Very important laboratories have new equipment which is important for global sport and not just for my country. In the near future, I strongly believe it, doping, will be solved globally — not just in a few areas of the world.”
Erdener, president also of the World Archery Federation, said the adverse publicity regarding the failed tests came at a price, but that was life.
“There is no pain without gain,” he said.
Tokyo and Madrid will hope that holds true for them too after their experiences on Wednesday.