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Published: Friday, 9/6/2013

Madrid, Tokyo, Istanbul in home stretch to host 2020 Olympics

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina  — A day before the host of the 2020 Olympics is selected, Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul made their closing arguments to IOC voters today:

—Madrid predicted its low budget would become a model for future games.

—Tokyo stressed its safety and certainty following the problems in Sochi and Rio de Janeiro.

—Istanbul pointed to a first Olympics in Turkey and first in a majority Muslim country.

International Olympic Committee members will vote by secret ballot Saturday until one city receives a simple majority. The city receiving the fewest votes is eliminated after each round.

“We believe that having a responsible budget represents the new way to understand the games,” Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said. “We believe that it’s a new model to organize the games at a time marked by political and economic turbulence around the world.”

Spain’s economic struggles, highlighted by a 27 percent unemployment rate, are regarded as the main weakness of Madrid’s bid. But Madrid regards its streamlined proposal as a strength.

“We are proposing a new model of games which are adjusted to the current times,” Botella said. “We believe that having this type of budget is something really good for the future because otherwise there would be many cities in the world which would not be capable of hosting the games.”

Madrid is making its third straight attempt to win the bid. It says it has one of the lowest Olympic budgets ever, adding that 80 percent of the venues are in place in a compact layout.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Games will be the most expensive in Olympic history, and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games are proving to be an expensive and critical endeavor for Brazil.

Tokyo bid organizers gave the clearest explanation so far of the radioactive water leak at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Hiroshi Hase, a former Olympic wrestler and member of the Japanese parliament, minimized the problem with a detailed presentation — a strategy that has been lacking for several days as Japanese officials struggled with the subject.

“There is a very limited area where contaminated water is leaking out in the port. ... But we will monitor it, remove it and contain it. That is the gist of the strategy,” Hase said.

Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat reiterated the city’s novelty and played up the country’s youth.

“Istanbul 2020 will be held against the backdrop of one of the most magical cities on the planet: a bridge between continents, cultures and generations for thousands of years,” Arat said.



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