Olympics: 2020 host candidates jockey for position

The choice of host city for the 2020 Olympics is still 15 months away, but a shortlist is set to be announced from declared candidates Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) at this early stage in the competition only looks at the cities' abilities to host a major sporting event, ranking their transportation and other infrastructure and the challenges they face to ramp up in time for the event.

Tokyo are the only one of the candidates to have hosted the event and seen widely as the early front runners, while Istanbul were seen as the dark horses until a spanner was thrown into the works when Turkey also announced they were bidding for the 2020 European football championship.

Of the other candidates Doha failed to even make the short list last time and the subsequent furore after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup has according to some made IOC members reluctant to suffer the same press as FIFA did.

Baku also failed to make the short list last time but say they have learnt from their mistakes this time round.

Ordinarily Madrid would be seen as running Tokyo close as they beat them in the race for 2016 and finished runners-up to Rio de Janeiro - but the spectre of the abortive Rome bid and their own dire financial crisis hangs over them.

Considered a favourite at its launch in 2010, and described by the Rome bid's chairman Mario Pescante as serving as "a blueprint for a return to fiscal responsibility and real sustainability in the Olympic bidding process'', the city withdrew on the eve of the deadline for candidates to declare themselve.

A lack of support from an Italian government preoccupied with the euro zone debt crisis was the main factor.

Their withdrawal added to growing criticisms that the Games have become too expensive for most cities of the world to host.

However, unlike their Italian counterparts the Spanish Government is unlikely to force them to withdraw and with a new low-cost bid Madrid is expected to go through to the next round despite Spain's deep economic woes.

Once the shortlist is announced on Wednesday, the candidates will have 15 months to persuade delegates to vote for their respective bids.

- AFP

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