Tight race for Olympic rights

The International Olympic Committee has released an evaluation report on four cities — Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid — competing to win the right to host the 2016 summer Olympic Games. Although there does not appear to be a clear front-runner, conspicuous is the fact that the IOC has upgraded its evaluation of Rio de Janeiro from last year.

The Brazilian city is trying to be the first South American city to host the Olympics, with 84.5 percent of residents supporting the bid, just short of Madrid’s 84.9 percent. Support among Tokyo residents is only 55.5 percent, while that in Chicago is 67.3 percent. (These are all February figures.)

Rio de Janeiro barely passed the June 2008 screening in which the four cities were chosen from among seven contenders. At that time, it received 6.4 points (out of 10 possible) for infrastructure, accommodations, security, financing and environmental impact, among other criteria. Tokyo had the highest score with 8.3 points.

This time, Rio de Janeiro received praise for the close linkage between construction of Games venues and urban planning, efforts to enhance security, and a government guarantee for financing. Chicago was credited for its compact plan to locate most venues within 8 km of the city center. But its lack of government guarantee for financing raises concern.

Madrid, which had garnered the highest rate of public support among the four cities, already has 23 of the 33 venues needed for the 2016 Games. But the IOC voiced concern about various stakeholders’ financial commitments, and Madrid’s failure to clearly delineate their roles and responsibilities.

The Japan Olympic Committee and Tokyo officials may be slightly disappointed because the evaluation report did not give Tokyo the overwhelming rating that they had expected. Although the IOC praised the ¥400 billion fund the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has set up, it pointed to the low public support for hosting the Games. It also said that some venues that had been listed as “existing” need to be constructed anew.

Tokyo needs to make efforts to earn the trust of IOC members by providing detailed, objective explanations in a sincere manner.