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Published: Sunday, 9/8/2013

Tokyo basks in victory of ’20 Olympic Games

Snub disappoints early favorite Istanbul

BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Citizens form a giant ‘thank you’ at the Tokyo Municipal Government office square Sunday after the International Olympic Committee chose the city to host the 2020 Olympics. It will be the second time the city has hosted summer games. Citizens form a giant ‘thank you’ at the Tokyo Municipal Government office square Sunday after the International Olympic Committee chose the city to host the 2020 Olympics. It will be the second time the city has hosted summer games.
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TOKYO — For the second time, Tokyo will be the home of the Summer Olympics after the International Olympic Committee overwhelmingly picked the city above Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Summer Games.

The awarding of the Games to Tokyo, the sprawling Japanese metropolis of 13 million people, is a boost for the nation after a tsunami and nuclear disaster laid waste to its northern Pacific coast two years ago.

Japan’s capital defeated Istanbul in the final round of voting at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires, after Madrid was eliminated in the first round.

Istanbul, an early favorite, seemed to falter in June when the government of Turkey clashed violently with protesters. Istanbul’s bid also may have been hurt by a string of doping scandals among Turkish athletes and the uncertainty of neighboring Syria’s civil war.

Rafet Pacali, an Istanbul resident, said the repeated rejection for Istanbul in its fifth bid was difficult to take. “They just don’t want to give it to us,” he said, while sparing some optimism. “Next time hopefully, if it’s meant to be.”

Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of voting.

The defeat represented a blow to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had flown to Buenos Aires to make the case straight from the Group of 20 summit in Russia.

Mr. Erdogan had argued that a successful Olympic bid for Istanbul would make it a first for a predominantly Muslim country in a city linking the continents of Europe and Asia.

After the vote, he expressed disappointment.

“It wasn’t our fate,” he said, according to Turkish news reports.

The disappointment comes at a politically sensitive time for Mr. Erdogan as he faces a series of elections. The Turkish economy is looking increasingly shaky after a decade of growth and the protests have polarized the country.

Both Istanbul and Madrid started counting the costs on Sunday of failing once more to hold the Games.

The cost could be higher for Madrid, whose population, hit hard by record unemployment and a long recession, had rallied around the idea that organizing the Games could help create jobs and revive the image and economy of Spain.

With 80 percent of its earmarked Olympic venues already completed, Madrid’s bid was centered on a straightforward argument: We have built it already, so let us at least use it.

The Spanish capital now faces a new challenge, as it scrambles to reduce $9.2 billion in debt as it figures out what to do with some of its half-built or underused sports venues.

In contrast, large groups of people in Istanbul celebrated their city’s defeat. They argued that their government had tried to use the Olympics as an excuse to ignore environmental concerns and go ahead with large-scale building projects.

In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, those who opposed the bid celebrated late into the night.

Taksim had been turned into a battleground in June after disputes over the razing of a public park morphed into the largest anti-government rally the country had seen in more than a decade.

Analysts have said that one of the largest setbacks for Turkey’s Olympic bid was the government’s harsh crackdown on the protesters.

“We’ve been tear-gassed too many times to have any Olympic spirit left in us,” said Ali Turan, an architect who has been an active member of the “Boycott Istanbul 2020” campaign in Istanbul. “This city has to learn to value its people and environment before it makes any promises to the world.”

For Japan, the Olympics will heighten global scrutiny of the country’s containment and cleanup efforts at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, about 155 miles north of Tokyo. Recent revelations of leaks of contaminated water from the site had cast a pall on Tokyo’s bid in its final weeks.

The 2020 Games also will increase pressure on Japan to put its public finances in order.

Japan’s government debt has increased to more than twice the size of its $6 trillion economy, in large part because of the costs of caring for the country’s growing elderly population.

Tokyo’s organizing committee has budgeted the Olympics at around $10 billion, including the cost of constructing venues and improving transport infrastructure.

Still, the Olympics could not come to the Japanese capital at a more opportune time.

Tokyo last hosted the Summer Games in 1964, signaling its dramatic transformation into a modern city from the ashes of World War II.

In the half-century since, Japan developed into a global economic powerhouse, only to see growth stall in what has come to be called Japan’s two lost decades.

Economists at Nomura, the Japanese investment bank, said they expected the 2020 Olympics to add about $14 billion to Japan’s economy — a lower percentage of gross domestic product than the boost the country got from its previous three Olympic Games: the Summer Games in Tokyo in 1964, and the Winter Games in Sapporo in 1972 and in Nagano in 1998.



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