Tokyo and wrestling pre­vail in 2020 Olympic Games con­tests

Sportcal - - EVENTS BIDDING -

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.

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