Tokyo beat out Madrid and Istanbul in the contest to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The International Olympic Committee voted in favor of the Japanese city on Saturday in a ceremony in Buenos Aires, giving the games to a country that had launched an intense lobbying operation and was long seen as a front-runner. Despite this front-runner status, Tokyo’s chances appeared to have been diminishing in recent weeks as concerns grew over a leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, points out the Associated Press. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went to Buenos Aires himself to assure the IOC members that “the situation is under control.”
In selecting Tokyo, the IOC went against a recent trend of not giving the games to countries that had already hosted the Olympics in the past, notes NPR. It marked the second straight time Tokyo, which hosted the Olympics in 1964, made a bid to host the games. And it was Istanbul’s fifth bid in its history. Istanbul had pushed its bid as a historic opportunity to take the Summer Olympics to a predominantly Muslim country for the first time. Indeed, one Olympics expert told CNN Istanbul was the one bid that offered “something unique and different.” At the same time though it was likely seen as too big of a risk considering the logistical challenges the city would have to overcome. Plus, the government protests of this summer and its border with Syria likely didn’t help sway IOC members at a time when there is growing concern over whether the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro will really be ready to host the 2016 games.
Tokyo, on the other hand, was long seen as the safest choice, considering Japan is the third largest economy in the world and already has a stellar infrastructure and transportation system, points out ESPN. Earlier Saturday, Madrid was eliminated in the first round of voting. Madrid at first tied with Istanbul for second place. The Turkish city then won the tiebreaking vote 49-45.