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Cities seeking 2020 Olympics fight it out

india Updated: Apr 14, 2012 21:07 IST
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The five cities seeking to host the 2020 summer Olympics made back-to-back presentations to heads of national Olympic committees on Saturday, the first chance to see the proposals in polite but heartfelt competition.

The presentations by Tokyo, Madrid, Istanbul, Doha, Qatar and Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Association of National Olympic Committees offered a glimpse of their visions for the games, but has no direct bearing on who wins. That will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in September 2013.

The 10-minute presentations were not long enough for significant technical or financial detail, but showed what each city considers its strengths and hinted at what some may consider weaknesses.

Doha confronted two difficult issues head-on: weather and women.

Searing summer temperatures in the desert emirate make even mild activity tiring, so Doha wants to turn the summer games into autumn ones, proposing the Olympics be held Oct. 2-18 and the Paralympics in November.

"You can say we have finally taken the heat out of the Doha heat issue," said national Olympic committee head Sheikh Tamim in Hamad Al-Thani.

Qatar is sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time this summer, and the 2020 bid presentation took considerable pains to emphasize that holding the Olympics in Doha would improve conditions for women competitors throughout the Middle East.

"It will enhance and grow women's sports across the region," Sheikh Tamim said.

Azerbaijan, like Qatar a predominantly Muslim country, also touted the opportunities for women in the Baku bid. Baku also played up the exotic appeal of the former Soviet republic, with bid communications director Narguiz Birk-Petersen calling it "one of the world's oldest but little-known cultures."

While Baku bragged about its proximity to Asia, just across the Caspian Sea, Istanbul also played its trump card on location.

"It is a unique opportunity to celebrate the games on two continents," said Hasan Arat, vice president of the national Olympic committee.

Istanbul, despite its notorious traffic jams, promised a maximum 20 minutes' travel time between the competition venues, which would be in four clusters, and noted that the city is in the midst of a $16 billion mass transit upgrade.

Tokyo, another densely crowded city, promised an even tighter concentration, with 28 of 31 venues in two clusters a maximum eight kilometers (five miles) from the seaside athlete village. Madrid and Doha also offered tightly concentrated plans, with venues within circles of 10 and 15 kilometers (six and nine miles) circumference.

Tokyo bid chairman also noted that the city is "totally safe."

The huge financial burden of staging the summer games prompted reassurances from several of the cities that their national economies could handle it. Madrid did not address the issue of the troubled Spanish economy and Doha also left the issue unmentioned, possibly assuming the country is already well-known for having the world's highest GDP per-capita.

The IOC's executive committee will decide in late May whether to keep all the applicant cities as candidates or whether to narrow the field.