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IOC candidates ratchet up Lausanne campaigns

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Istanbul's proposed Ataturk Olympic stadium. Image: Istanbul2020.com
10:38 CEST+02:00
Electioneering fever is hitting Lausanne this week as the three cities bidding for the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and the six men vying to succeed Jacqes Rogge as International Olympic Committee president make presentations to IOC members.

While both those final decisions will come in September in Buenos Aires, the host of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games — one of Rogge's innovations during his 12 year reign — will be designated in a vote on Thursday.

The 2020 Games bid teams from Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo will approach their presentations on Wednesday all in relatively good heart, emboldened by positive assessments by the IOC Evaluation Commission last week.

Istanbul, in particular, will be keen to have their effective message about being a bridge to different cultures, religions, and generations return to centre stage after an uncomfortable period marked by mass street protests in Turkey threatened to destabilize their bid.

Aside from that, the question marks raised by the Commission over transport congestion in the city could arise again from other members, but Istanbul's energetic chief executive Hasan Arat believes solving that problem is already well in hand.

"With regards to transport, the report also states that we have significantly improved public transport and we have enough funding to continue on the other projects," he said last week.

Madrid will have an even greater spring in their step and justifiably so after the Evaluation Commission crucially gave them the thumbs up over their relatively modest planned budget for remaining building work should they get the Games.

The Commission said they were confident that the budget of €2.37 billion ($3.10 billion) for fulfilling the remaining building work is feasible.

"As the additional investment required to deliver the Games is relatively modest, the Commission believes that Spanish economy should be able to support the delivery of the Games," the report said.

While the terrible economic problems bedevilling the country will not be solved any time soon, the bid team can at least rest easy that the factor posing a constant question mark over their viability as a candidate has been laid to rest.

"Madrid is very much a live candidate to win the right to host the Games," one IOC source told AFP.

"They have 28 of the 35 venues built, the infrastructure is in place and they are running an effective campaign," the source added.

Tokyo, the only one of the three to have previously hosted the Games in 1964, still appear to be the favourites after a glowing report from the Commission but question marks remain over whether their campaign has sufficiently captivated the members.

The report, though, lauded their plans.

Tokyo intends to use "the power of sport" to offer hope to the Japanese people and promote national spirit, unity and confidence," in particular after the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the report said.

On the fear of more natural disasters in Japan, the IOC report said the Tokyo bidders had ensured that "robust" anti-quake construction standards and necessary anti-tsunami safety measures were in place.

The six contenders to replace Rogge - after a largely successful and peaceful presidency - will outline their vision for taking the movement forward post Rogge.

Cracking down on illegal gambling and doping, plus an emphasis on educating the young in Olympic ideals are high on many of their lists while several are keen to see the Olympic Games kept to a reasonable size and not getting bigger and more expensive to put on.

German IOC vice-president Thomas Bach is still seen as the favourite to take a post that he has seemingly been groomed for years but Singapore businessman and diplomat Ng Ser Miang, as well as Puerto Rican banker Richard Carrion, are viewed as real dangers to that coming to fruition.

The race to host the Youth Olympic Games is a three-way competition with Medellin, Colombia being praised for an impressive campaign but both it and Glasgow could well lose out to Buenos Aires, which by happy coincidence is hosting the IOC Congress in just a couple of months time and the members will probably prefer not to have a chilly welcome.

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