“You’re in safe hands with Tokyo” was what the Japanese emphasized, actually using the words “safe pair of hands” as a bid theme. They referred to a $4.5 billion reserve fund already in place to cover Olympic cost contingencies and polls showing travelers think Tokyo is the safest city in the world.
So the Japanese capital won the right to host its second Summer Games. It will be Japan’s fourth Olympics, more than any other country except the United States with eight and France with five.
Tokyo beat Istanbul 60-36 Saturday in the second round of voting. Madrid was eliminated in a runoff after the first round of a secret ballot vote that ends when one city achieves a majority.
Questions about Spain’s battered economy and instability in the Middle East undoubtedly hurt Madrid and Istanbul.
“That does come into play,” IOC member Prince Albert of Monaco said after the vote. “I think there was a shift to a safe bet.”
It was reflected in both the final margin and in Tokyo also having won the first round with 42 votes to 26 for Istanbul and Madrid. In the runoff, Istanbul beat Madrid 49-45.
Both Tokyo and Madrid had lost to Rio de Janeiro in the bidding for the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago’s bid lost in the first round of that election.
Conventional wisdom says the Tokyo victory will hurt U.S. chances for a successful 2024 bid because it leaves an opening for European bids. There have not been consecutive Summer Games on the same continent since 1948-52.
IOC member Dick Pound of Canada did not think the result kills U.S. hopes, especially since the U.S. Olympic Committee has ended a decade of acrimony with the IOC in a dispute over percentages of television and global sponsorship revenues.
“What it does is increase the likelihood there will be another European bid,” Pound said. “That said, if we are in kiss-and-make-up time with the U.S. … why not (a successful U.S. bid.)”
The Tokyo bid had to deal with one significant issue, and Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, attacked it head-on.
Abe made a seemingly impossible guarantee there would be no more present or future health-related problems related to radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear plant 150 miles from Tokyo. Abe made reference to Fukushima in his prepared remarks and unflinchingly answered IOC members’ further questions about it.
“Let me assure you, the situation is under control,’’ Abe said. “It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.’’
Tokyo’s plans include adding a new waterfront cluster of venues to those that remain from its 1964 Summer Games. The main Olympic Stadium will be a new structure on the site of the old one.
“The joy was even greater than when I won my own election,” Abe said of Tokyo’s victory.
With a struggling economy and lingering effects of the deadly 2011 tsunami and earthquake that devastated areas that include the Fukushima reactor, Tokyo emphasized the idea that having the Olympics would give the country — particularly its youth — more hope for the future.
Paralympian Mami Sato, whose home town was hit by the tsunami, delivered that message through her own experiences, saying “I was saved by sport” and recounting the psychological lift provided to children in the ravaged areas by the visits of international and Japanese athletes.
Sato’s emotional speech, in occasionally halting English, captured a tonal shift in the entire Japanese presentation, full of passion and force of conviction Tokyo had lacked in its 2016 bid.
Crown Princess Takamado also made a big impression simply by showing up, a departure from the imperial family’s past distance from such occasions.