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Tokyo Chosen To Host 2020 Summer Olympics


If you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

The wait is over, and the winning city to host the Summer Olympics in 2020 will be Tokyo. It last hosted the games in 1964. The International Olympic Committee announced its selection this afternoon in Buenos Aires. Istanbul and Madrid were also mentioned. Tokyo last hosted the Olympics in 1964.

NPR's Mike Pesca is in Buenos Aires covering this vote and other events. Mike, what was it that tipped the vote in Tokyo's favor?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: I think it was stability and the perception that Tokyo was the safest choice. There was a quote - Reuters got a hold of a quote of one of the voting delegates, a member of the IOC that was this delicious quote, saying that this was a contest - the three cities was a contest between who is the least ugly. In other words, they all had important deficits in their bidding proposals.

And I asked the members of every one of these committees, you know, what do you think of that? And, of course, they all used it as an opportunity to say, no, I think the Madrid bid is beautiful, or I think Tokyo gives a beautiful bid. But, you know, I have to tell you, in their presentation, which was the last chance to make their case before the voters, the head of the Tokyo delegation say - said: Vote for Tokyo. It's a vote for stability.

And when you factor in the fact that Istanbul had its problems with protests and so forth and Madrid has a bad economy, and Tokyo had the meltdown in the Fukushima reactor, and that certainly came up. But perhaps they were more easily able to either overcome that or the problem was seen as, you know, within seven years, perhaps it was - members - the voting members were confident that Tokyo would be able to get a handle on that.

LYDEN: You know, you mentioned the problems that we saw over the summer in Istanbul, but still it came in second. Why didn't it nudge all the way to the front if it was going to be there at all?

PESCA: Yes. Istanbul was considered the longest shot of all the candidates, but, you know, I'd put that word "considered" in quotes. There are 100 - really only 94 members had a vote because if you're a part of the - if you're a member of the country that has a bidding proposal, you don't vote. So no one really knows what's going on inside the minds of those 94.

But the big problem with Istanbul was the protests. And, of course, it wasn't just the fact that there was a protest. The protest was specifically over a public works project, which is the sort of thing that, of course, happens with the Olympics. And then both Istanbul and Madrid, the issue of doping came up. The Spanish Federation has had trouble with doping. Some Turkish athletes have just been nailed for doping. And it's something that the IOC is very concerned with.

Or maybe - you know, they don't really reveal exactly why they voted. Maybe Tokyo was just seen as such a very strong vote that Istanbul didn't quite get over the hump.

LYDEN: Yeah. Mike, there are some other big votes you're going to be watching this weekend, certainly the big one for IOC, a new president. And tomorrow, this very interesting vote over selecting a new sport for 2020. And, of course, the controversy around wrestling because, as you know, it might be cut from the games altogether. So how does the selection of Tokyo affect wrestling's chances of being kept in the games?

PESCA: Right. So it could be the election of a new sport. Say, if squash were to be invited into the games, and that's one of the three sports on the docket. But it could be the invitation of a very old sport, a sport that will be contested in 2016 and goes back to the ancient Greeks.

Wrestling is seen as the strongest candidate. The elimination of wrestling in - at a preliminary vote, they told wrestling that they'd have to sort of reapply to get back in the Olympics, and wrestling got its house in order. And so now it's seen as the strongest candidate.

But the third candidate is interesting. The third candidate is a combo baseball-softball bid. And one very prominent person in baseball told me, it would be really weird to have the Olympics in Tokyo without baseball. Baseball's the most popular sport in Tokyo.

And even though baseball doesn't have the wide appeal of wrestling, I think that perhaps because this vote, the vote on the city happened before the vote on the sport, maybe the baseball-softball combination bid got a little bit of a shot in the arm. Still, a lot of people are looking at wrestling to restore its status as an Olympic mainstay.

LYDEN: That's NPR's Mike Pesca, who is in Buenos Aires covering the International Olympic Committee. Mike, thank you for being with us.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.