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BidIndex: Istanbul, Tokyo Lead 2020 Olympic Bid in Volatile Race

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Exclusive - A two-way race is forming early in the 2020 Olympic bid campaign according to results from the widely acclaimed GamesBids.com BidIndex released Monday.  Bids from Istanbul and Tokyo are mere points apart, but together they have formed sizeable leads over nearest rival Madrid.

Istanbul lodged bids for four of the previous five summer Games and is leveraging that experience and momentum in this campaign, scoring an impressive 60.20 on the BidIndex scale.  This value is up from a final score of 59.46 when the city was eliminated from the 2012 campaign and significantly higher than the 53.94 earned during the 2008 campaign.

Turkey’s commitment to the Olympic movement, a favourable economy compared to European rivals and Istanbul’s persistent bidding that has helped evolve a compelling plan are key factors resulting in the bid’s top score.  However, Istanbul’s position is the most volatile in the field and stands to drop significantly should Turkey’s bid to host the UEFA 2020 European Football Championships (Euro 2020) be successful.

Turkey could be awarded Euro 2020 as early as this Tuesday if no other bidders come forward and the tournament is awarded by default.  If so, it will be up to Istanbul officials to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that they are capable of hosting two major events in a single year, a scenario that the IOC won’t likely accept.  Alternatively – Turkey could abandon the UEFA opportunity in favour of the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge has already indicated that Istanbul’s bid will be evaluated based on its ability to host the Games.  If they win and sign the Olympic host city agreement, then Istanbul will be forced to reject the Euro 2020 opportunity.

Tokyo is placed only 0.28 points back at 59.92, a score that falls short of the Japanese city’s opening score of 60.41 received at the start of the 2016 campaign.  Tokyo exhibits strong key fundamentals typical to successful bids including good financing, well-developed infrastructure for transportation and tourism, major sport event experience and a strategic legacy plan.

To be successful the bid committee will have to fight off critics who believe a Tokyo Games may be too soon after the 2018 Winter Games in nearby PyeongChang, South Korea.  Attention will undoubtedly be paid to the 2011 earthquake recovery efforts which could become a double-edge sword for the campaign.  Will the Games help the nation get back on its feet or will preparations take the focus off more necessary issues?

Sitting in third, Madrid’s score of 55.10 is disappointing considering the bid was valued at 58.25 at the same point in the 2016 campaign.  At the end of the 2012 bid race, Madrid was at a respectable 61.22.

This is Madrid’s third straight Summer Games bid – and Spain’s fifth.  The city’s previous two bids have been competitive placing second for 2016 and narrowly missing a third-round upset that may have led to a win for 2012.  Madrid’s plans have been typical of other successful candidates and Spain has deep Olympic roots.

But the financial downturn in Spain and the resulting austerity measures have led to a reduction in the bid’s overall budget during a time when competitors are increasing their own spending.  History and BidIndex research shows that higher spending increases the odds of a successful bid.  Among other things, recruiting expensive specialized bid consultants and developing complex plans have become indispensable prerequisites to winning.  Madrid has proposed a budget significantly lower than all other bid rivals.

Further back with a BidIndex score of 53.08 is Doha, Qatar putting the city almost at par with the initial result of 52.83 earned early in the 2016 campaign.  Wealthy Qatar won the FIFA World Cup bid for 2022 but when Doha applied for the 2016 Olympic Games the city was rejected because Games dates were proposed in October to avoid the brutal summer heat – the IOC required dates in July and August.

This time, the IOC asked for advance notice of alternate dates and Doha complied – and was approved to move forward.  But this doesn’t imply that the IOC is happy with the dates.  In fact, many IOC members may be negatively impacted by a non-standard schedule that could cause shifts in major sport schedules and reduced overall revenue due to smaller television audiences.

With abundant funding, political backing, experience and a strong desire, there is no doubt that Doha could host an excellent Olympic Games.  But it might not be the kind of Games that IOC wants at this time.

Struggling at the back of the field is Baku, Azerbaijan – a city with a lot to prove in the race. Still, the BidIndex score of 43.66 is markedly better than the 36.85 rating achieved in the 2016 campaign when Baku was left off the short list; and there is a lot of opportunity ahead before the IOC makes its decision in about 16 months.

Baku has aggressive plans for the next eight years and Azerbaijan infrastructure and culture are rapidly expanding, however it may still be too early for the IOC to trust the city with its most valuable franchise.

In February Rome, the first city to declare its candidacy after winning the Italian domestic campaign, withdrew a well-developed plan from the race after the federal government chose not to support the bid amidst austerity measures and an economic crisis.  But bid officials made their plans public, and BidIndex was able to use that to generate a score for comparison purposes.

Rome scored 53.66 which would have placed the city fourth between Madrid and Doha.  While the plan was generally strong, IOC members may have had concerns about the economic situation and funding for the plans, especially after there were similar difficulties while organizing the recent 2006 Winter Games in Turin.

BidIndex is not intended to rate the bids based solely on technical quality, but on how the bids will perform based on IOC voting patterns. History has proven that the best technical bids often do not win but other factors such as geopolitics usually have a significant impact.  The previous two bid winners, Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018, both started and ended their campaigns with the highest BidIndex scores.

The race has barely begun and only about 25% of the information needed by BidIndex is available. Results of two evaluation reports and additional data will be needed to complete the BidIndex analysis which will be updated frequently before the Host City Election to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 7, 2013.

Next week the IOC Executive Board will meet in Quebec City, Canada to reveal an initial evaluation report and accept qualifying bids as candidates to a short list.  BidIndex may be updated at that time.

Full BidIndex details can be found on the BidIndex results page or contact BidIndex@GamesBids.com for more information.

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Baku - 43.66
Doha  - 53.08
Istanbul - 60.20
Madrid - 55.10
Tokyo - 59.92

Rome - 53.66 (unofficial - Rome has dropped out of the race)

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