Tokyo and wrestling prevail in 2020 Olympic Games contests
Tokyo comprehensively beat off the challenge of Istanbul and Madrid to win the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the second time that the games will be held in the Japanese capital, after the 1964 event.
In the final round of voting on September 7, during the International Olympic Committee Session in Buenos Aires, Tokyo received 60 votes to Istanbul’s 36. The Turkish city had beaten the Spanish capital Madrid 49-45 in a run-off for second place, behind Tokyo, after the first round of voting.
The decision that Tokyo would host the games followed a final presentation that surprised many with its warmth, as officials traditionally regarded as reserved and formal finally threw off their inhibitions and adopted a much more personal approach than before. In the process, Tokyo overcame revived concerns about radiation leakage from the Fukushima nuclear plant damaged by an earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011.
The minds of IOC members were set at rest by a personal guarantee of safety from Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister who answered an IOC member’s question on the issue by saying: “I’ll start with my conclusion first: this poses no problems whatsoever. The impact of the contamination is isolated to an area of 0.3km in harbour, which is completely blocked.”
A day later, IOC members voted for wrestling to be restored to the programme for the Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024, just seven months after the executive board had controversially recommended its exclusion.
Although the latest decision was widely expected, it was nonetheless regarded as harsh on rivals baseball-softball and squash, which had fought strong, costly and indeed longer campaigns than wrestling, but ultimately faced a more powerful opponent.
Wrestling received 49 votes in the first and only round of voting. Baseball-softball got 24 votes, two more than squash. All three sports had impressed in presentations to IOC members, and in subsequent question and answer sessions.
Since being recommended for exclusion from the games, FILA, the international wrestling federation, had made sweeping changes to the sport to make it more attractive and easier to understand. It also appointed a new president, Nenad Lalovic, the charismatic Serb, who did much to improve relations with the Olympic Movement.
Lalovic said September 8, 2013 will go down in history as “the most important day in the 3,000-year history of our sport”, adding: “Remaining on the Olympic programme is crucial to wrestling’s future. We have come together like never before to save our sport.”
Thomas Bach, who was elected to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC president, will now have to address fallout from the process that led to wrestling’s reinstatement, having said during his campaign that the number of Olympic sports could in future be expanded from the present maximum of 28 to help refresh the programme, as long as there is also a maximum number of permanent venues.