Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, its second in 56 years, by a whopping margin of 24 votes at the International Olympic Committee session in Buenos Aires on Saturday. The Japanese capital was the front-runner in a three-way contest, though serious doubts remained because of the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor. A last-ditch assurance from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allay fears about the radioactive water leak from Fukushima apparently succeeded. The IOC members have opted for Japanese efficiency, financial health and technical competence over the perceived risks associated with bids from Istanbul and Madrid. It was also a way of showing solidarity with a nation recovering from the 2011 devastating tsunami. In a way, the IOC took the least troublesome course in voting for Tokyo, steering clear of the political turmoil in Turkey, and the economic crisis in Spain. Japan’s ‘clean’ image in matters of doping compared to the mess in Turkey — with as many as 31 suspensions of athletes in recent weeks — might also have mattered in the final round of voting. That IOC members ignored the cost factor, in preferring the $9.80 billion Tokyo budget to the $5.04 billion budget of Madrid, should, however, come as a surprise given the Olympic body’s avowed keenness to avoid gigantism, especially in the backdrop of the $12 billion ‘economic disaster’ that the 2004 Athens Games proved to be for Greece.
The Buenos Aires meeting also saw wrestling staging a comeback — an expected one — into the Olympic sports programme after having been stunningly knocked out by the IOC Executive Board last February. In yet another three-cornered contest involving a combined baseball-softball bid, apart from one in squash, wrestling took just one round of voting to get back into the 2020 and 2024 Games. It is already part of the 2016 Games. Given its popularity around the world and its legacy from the ancient Olympics, it was clear that the sport would get the nod. International wrestling federation president Nenad Lalovic deserves to be complimented for his efforts in revamping the structure, changing the format to make the sport more appealing, giving more representation to women both in the federation and in the Olympic competition, and galvanising world opinion. The sport had the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other leaders. India, which has won three medals in wrestling in the last two editions of the Olympics, as well as several other Asian countries, should be pleased with its return to the Games just as they would be in Asia gaining the privilege to host the Games 12 years after Beijing.