2020 Olympics Finalists: Breaking Down Potential Host Cities for Summer Games

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2013

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 04:  IOC president Jacques Rogge speaks to the press during a IOC press conference at the 125th IOC Session at the Hilton Hotel on September 4, 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images,)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

While it is already known that the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the very first time in 2016, the vote to decide the 2020 host will be held on Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Three contrasting and intriguing bids are in place, and the Olympic athletes are eager to see which city will come out on top, as seen in this tweet courtesy of American hurdler Kellie Wells.

Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul all certainly have some positives working in their favor, but there are plenty of drawbacks as well. Because of that, it is quite unclear which bid has the lead currently as it is impossible to tell which aspects will resonate most with the voters.

Here is a look at each of the three potential host cities, including the latest news regarding their chances of landing the 2020 Olympics.



Although Madrid, Spain has never hosted the Olympics, the 1992 Games were held in Barcelona, so Spain certainly has some recent history when it comes to the world stage. While that could be a point in its favor, the International Olympic Committee has leaned toward giving first-time host cities and countries a shot over the past several years, so that could actually work against Madrid. 

With that said, Madrid may be the safest bid out of the three, as European Olympics usually seem to go off without a hitch. The 2012 Summer Games in London, England were spectacular, so there probably isn't a ton of risk involved with Madrid. The Spanish capital is far from perfect, though, as there is some concern about Spain's 27 percent unemployment rate as well as its budget, according to Sports Illustrated.

It wasn't long ago that Madrid was considered the decided underdog to win the bid, according to Jere Longman of The New York Times, but a presentation in July breathed new life into its candidacy.

Although Madrid failed in its previous attempts to land both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, that could actually work in its favor. Madrid has already built several Olympic-ready venues in anticipation of eventually winning a bid, so there is little doubt that Madrid will be ready provided it is called upon.



Japan has a long and successful history of hosting Olympic Games, so those backing Tokyo's 2020 bid are certainly hopeful that familiarity will be valued during the selection process. Not only did Tokyo host the Summer Olympics in 1964, but Sapporo, Japan and Nagano, Japan held the 1972 and 1998 Winter Games respectively, so the IOC has never been shy about looking in Japan's direction.

As is the case with Spain, though, Japan's past could also work against it. Perhaps even more importantly, though, the 2008 Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, China and the 2018 Winter Games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, so there may be some apprehension when it comes to awarding yet another Asian bid. Even so, Tokyo and Madrid appear to be co-favorites ahead of the official vote, according to Owen Gibson of The Guardian.

While Beijing wasn't without its issues back in 2008, the world generally seemed to be very impressed with the pride and pageantry involved, so that may help Tokyo as well. According to Longman, Tokyo is likely the most stable choice out of the three potential host cities due to its economic strength. Tokyo will be able to sink at least $4.5 billion into its preparation for the Games, and that is certain to be very attractive to the IOC.



Of the three cities that are in the running for the 2020 Olympics, there is no question that Istanbul, Turkey is the wild card at this point. Organizers pretty much know what to expect out of Madrid and Tokyo, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding Istanbul. It's possible that Turkey's largest city could do a fantastic job and broaden horizons for the IOC moving forward, but there is always some fear involved when exploring the unknown.

There is no question that it would be a groundbreaking achievement if Istanbul were to win the bid. According to CNN's Ivan Watson, Istanbul would be the first predominantly Muslim city to host the Olympics.

While the majority of Muslim countries are in dire financial straits, Turkey is a major exception. There shouldn't be much of an issue when it comes to building Olympic-ready venues in Istanbul, and construction is already very much underway, according to Watson.

Based on the open-mindedness that the IOC has shown in recent years by awarding the 2008 Summer Games to China and the 2016 Olympics to Brazil, it would appear as though Istanbul has a fighting chance. While it appears as though it is third in line currently, upset bids are nothing new when it comes to the Olympics, so don't be surprised if Istanbul makes a late charge.


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