Tokyo 2020

Tokyo wins 2020 Olympics over Istanbul, Madrid

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The Games of the 32nd Olympiad will be in Tokyo.

The Japanese capital won a final-round vote over Istanbul and will host an Olympics for the second time in 2020. Tokyo also held the Games in 1964. Tokyo, which billed its bid as “a safe pair of hands,” won with 60 votes to Istanbul’s 36 from International Olympic Committee members.

“The Games of the 32nd Olympiad in 2020 are awarded to the city of … ,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said as he opened the envelope in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Tokyo.”

Japan last hosted an Olympics in 1998 when Nagano had the Winter Games. Turkey had never hosted the Olympics. Istanbul was trying for the fifth time. The other finalist, Madrid, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Tokyo also won the first round of voting with 42 votes, but did not get more than half the votes, so a second round had to be held between Tokyo and the second-place city. Istanbul and Madrid tied for second place with 26 each, so there was a tiebreaking vote between the two to see which would advance. That vote was won by Istanbul, which got 49 votes to Madrid’s 45.

“Tokyo presented a very strong technical bid from the outset — and it needed to in competition with two such high-caliber bids from Istanbul and Madrid,” Rogge, whose 12-year tenure in office ends Tuesday, said in an IOC press release. “All three cities were capable of staging excellent Games in 2020, but in the end it was Tokyo’s bid that resonated the most with the IOC membership, inviting us to ‘discover tomorrow’ by delivering a well-organised and safe Games that will reinforce the Olympic values while demonstrating the benefits of sport to a new generation.”

Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of New York, similar to the time difference for the Beijing Games in 2008, which was 12 hours.

“Tokyo is one of the world’s most fascinating cities, and will provide a spectacular setting for the 2020 Olympic Games,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement. “Tokyo is particularly special to NBC as our rich Olympic heritage began there with the 1964 Olympic Games. We are excited to return in 2020 … to broadcast what will be our 17th Olympic Games overall and 11th consecutive, and to bring the stories and performances of the world’s greatest athletes home to American viewers.”

It is interesting that the tiebreaking vote was so close since, essentially, it was determined by the pro-Tokyo voters. If the Tokyo supporters were under a consensus as to which bid would be a preferred final-round opponent, it was not apparent in that slim four-vote margin.

Madrid’s elimination could be seen as a positive for Paris and Rome, two cities showing interest in the 2024 Olympics. Asia will hold back-to-back Games in 2018 and 2020, with Pyeongchang, South Korea, hosting the 2018 Winter Games.

The U.S. has been gauging interest in a possible 2024 bid and is expected to pick a city, if it chooses a bid, by the end of next year.

Tokyo’s win could be seen as a positive for baseball and softball, which is competing with squash and wrestling for one open spot in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. Baseball and softball are very popular in Japan. That vote comes Sunday.

Sunday’s sport vote previews: Baseball-softball | Squash | Wrestling

Tokyo, the second of the three cities to make final presentations to the IOC on Saturday, spoke amid the backdrop of a slogan, “discover tomorrow.”

The Japanese imperial family made a rare appearance at an event such as an IOC session. Princess Takamado led the presentation.

“This may be the first time a member our family has addressed you, but the imperial family of Japan has always been active in sports,” she said.

Paralympian Mami Sato delivered an emotional speech, telling the story of how she was “saved by sport” after losing her right leg due to cancer at 19 years old. The 2011 tsunami and earthquake damaged her hometown, and she said she didn’t know for six days if the rest of her family was alive.

Tokyo 2020 also mentioned its clean record free of doping, illegal betting and match fixing. It mentioned three values — celebration, innovation and delivery — that add up to one word, “opportunity.”

Tokyo came in third place in the voting for 2016 but said it bettered its bid with a new Olympic stadium plan, where “every athlete can have a seat” for the opening ceremony. It said the Olympic village is bigger and in a better place, with a bed for every athlete.

“We have kept the best and improved the rest,” said a smiling Masato Mizuno, CEO of the bid committee.

Japanese TV presenter Christel Takigawa spoke of Tokyo’s “selfless hospitality,” which dates to its ancestors, mentioning that $30 million in lost money was turned into police last year.

“If you lose something, you will almost certainly get it back,” Takigawa said.

In the question-and-answer session, it was asked about the recent leak of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 155 miles north of Tokyo. It marked the fifth and largest leak from the plant damaged by the 2011 tsunami.

“Let me assure you the situation is under control,” Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said. “It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”

Istanbul was the first city to present to the IOC as rain pounded Buenos Aires on Saturday morning. It brought at least a dozen young athletes, potential 2020 Olympians, with it to the Buenos Aires Hilton. It emphasized the country’s youth and its melting pot of culture.

Çağla Büyükakçay, 23, the first Turkish woman to compete in a Grand Slam tennis tournament, said nearly half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 25.

“This is a new bid for a new Turkey,” bid leader Hasan Arat said.

Istanbul’s bid was about bridging together Asia and Europe. It hoped to bring the Olympics to a predominantly Muslim country for the first time, in the city’s fifth attempt to get the Games.

“No budget blowouts” and “no negative headlines,” were promised by Istanbul, which had plenty of issues this summer. More than 30 of its track and field athletes were suspended for positive drug tests. Outside sport, anti-government protests and the current civil war in neighboring Syria are concerning.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he flew 16 hours overnight from the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, to speak in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

“From Istanbul, the city of tolerance, we want to send a message as warm and sincere as the Olympic flame,” he said, calling Istanbul an “8,000-year city of tolerance and peace.”

Istanbul was pressed on doping during a question-and-answer session with IOC members. It emphasized zero tolerance, conveying a message that it was cleaning up.

“There is no gain without pain,” Turkey’s Olympic committee president Ugur Erdener said, adding that it didn’t establish an organized anti-doping organization in the country until two years ago.

Madrid, making its third straight attempt to win the Games, was the last city to make its presentation. It lined up an all-star team of athletes for its bid, including Lakers center Pau Gasol, who gave a speech.

Gasol spoke after a 77-second video where the phrase “makes sense” was said 10 times among a group of athletes that included soccer stars Andres IniestaIker CasillasSergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo (who is Portuguese but plays for Real Madrid) and Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque, tennis player Rafael Nadal and gymnast Gervasio Deferr.

“Even though I played many important finals in my career, I’m honored and a little bit nervous at the same time,” Gasol said. “What’s left for me to talk about that you haven’t already heard?”

Gasol told a story of a phone call he received in the middle of the night months ago. He didn’t listen to the voicemail until the morning. It was the Crown Prince of Spain who called, asking Gasol to help with the bid.

“Madrid 2020 understands that sport is a human right, and that every kid in the world deserves a chance to play,” Gasol went on to say. “You will find no greater partner for the next seven years than the people of Spain.”

Madrid’s delegation, decked out in red, quoted the previous IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who unsuccessfully lobbied for Madrid to get the 2016 Games and passed away seven months after Rio won the vote.

Madrid boasted that 80 percent of the venues were already in place, that it was a “no risk” bid.

Of Spain’s struggling economy, Crown Prince Felipe said, “I don’t see this as a threat to Olympism.”

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter at pre-Games competition.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun was correct to reference the Olympic Charter, which states that “no kind of demonstration … is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which got them kicked out of the Games.

The USOC has since honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

Olympic hopefuls were peppered with questions about possible protests at the media summit.

“One of the proudest parts of being an American is the ability to have freedom of speech,” four-time Olympian Julia Mancuso said. “I really look up to athletes who take a stand for what they believe in. I really believe as athletes that compete for Team USA, when it comes to the Olympics, I like to think it’s a special event. Not like the NFL or pro sports teams that compete every weekend. For us, it’s every four years. I’m proud for athletes that stand up for what they believe in if they really want to have a message to get out. But I like to think of us all as patriotic.”

Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsled medalist, is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served in Kuwait and spent summers in the 1980s playing at Atlanta Falcons training camps.

She said any decisions on demonstrations or whether she attends a post-Olympics Team USA White House visit come secondary to her pursuit of making the Olympic team this winter.

“I can’t afford to focus on what I would do in that situation or how I would react,” Meyers Taylor said, adding that anything would be a “game-time decision.” “Maybe the social climate changes a little bit [before the Olympics]. … There’s a lot to consider.”

Aja Evans, a 2014 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist, the sister of former NFL defensive tackle Fred Evans, did not say that she would follow the football players’ lead.

“I honor and commend anyone that does that,” Evans said. “My way of showing my stance is to continue to try to be a positive influence for my city, for my country. I’m representing Team USA the best way I can.”

NCAA hockey players Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, both prospective Olympians with the NHL not participating, said they didn’t envision taking a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’ve always stood for the national anthem,” Greenway said. “I always will.”

Olympic freestyle skiing medalists Maddie Bowman and Gus Kenworthy have said they plan to skip the traditional Team USA post-Olympic White House visit due to the current presidential administration. Figure skater Ashley Wagner, too, said she would not go if she had to choose today.

Kenworthy said he was shocked that President Donald Trump believed that athletes kneeling during the national anthem disrespected the flag.

“Those people [servicemen and women] are fighting for the freedom to express their beliefs,” Kenworthy said. “I feel proud to be from a country where we have the right to be able to kind of say what we feel, speak up for what we believe in. I feel that people kneeling before a game is actually quite admirable.”

Kenworthy didn’t rule out a personal demonstration at the Olympics, should he qualify again, but knows he could be stripped of a medal for doing so.

“I’m not saying that I would want to be dictated by fear, and if I was to get a medal and be too scared that it would be taken away from me,” he said. “I think that there’s a way to do things in a way that’s not going to sabotage yourself. You can stand up for something and not throw yourself under the bus.”

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U.S. Olympic men’s hockey player from 2006 has shot at PyeongChang

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PARK CITY, Utah — Though no active NHL players will be in PyeongChang, veteran NHL forward and free agent Brian Gionta could very well play for his second U.S. Olympic team in February.

A USA Hockey official confirmed Monday that the 2006 Olympian Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

That came in response to a Buffalo radio report that Gionta said it’s looking good for him to play for Team USA.

Gionta, 38, played 15 NHL seasons through last year but is currently unsigned as the NHL preseason continues. The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta was seen at the Rochester (N.Y.) AHL club’s practice Monday (but not taking part), according to media in that area. Gionta could play for an AHL club and be eligible for PyeongChang. USA Hockey wants prospective Olympians to be active in the AHL, NCAA or a European league.

Gionta’s agent has not responded to a request for comment on his Olympic prospects on Monday. Earlier in the summer, Gionta’s agent said that the skater was considering the Olympics.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — embarked on a comeback this preseason and could pursue the Olympics. He has been in camp with the Minnesota Wild. If he doesn’t make the Wild, Malone could play on an AHL contract and be eligible for the Olympics.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Another is goalie Ryan Zapolski, who ranks third in the KHL in goals-against average this season.

John-Michael Liles, a 2006 Olympic defenseman and unsigned NHL veteran, is not interested in continuing his career in a non-NHL league to be considered for the Olympics, USA Hockey said.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said this summer that he was interested in some players who “have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster.” Johannson wouldn’t name names then.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. That roster is expected to be named in October.

The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

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