Madrid, Tokyo, Chicago and Rio De Janeiro are all in genuine contention to host the 2016 Olympics. But the last few days have seen all four candidates present their bids to most of the members of the IOC, and their success will have a big bearing on the outcome. Richard Douglas tells all.
The race to host the 2016 Olympics rounded the final bend last week. From now on, it is just a break-neck dash for the line and the announcement of the winner on October 2.
In the past few days, 94 of the 107 International Olympic Committee members witnessed major presentations from Rio, Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago at a meeting in Lausanne.
There were 45 minutes from the bid teams then they spent another 45 answering questions. IOC President Jacques Rogge said: "It's the opportunity to get a presentation without the frills. There will be no heads of states, no flashy videos, no presentation of fancy athletes. We can enter into more detailed questions".
He later added that the race could be "a very close call, like Singapore". However, when London came from behind to pip Paris there were only two real riders in the race. This time all four cities are more even in their standing, though the betting market is still skewed.
The winner of the week was probably Rio (4.2). The most compelling moment was when they unveiled a world map with a dot placed on the location of every Summer Games. Europe, Asia and North America were well represented. South America was empty. They also brought along the head of Brazil's central bank to assure the committee that the financial burden could be carried. The Rio committee boldly told the IOC that they could start tomorrow if they got the nod.
All this financial bravado was largely seen as a sleight on Chicago who are the only privately-funded bid of the final four. A town so closely associated with the recession-hit motor industry may not be trusted by outsiders (or allowed by insiders) to come through with all the funding necessary.
But Chicago (1.73) is the favourite. I'll come to their trump card later but, right now, it has to overcome its fair share of hurdles. Therefore one of their team's major aims was to show the IOC members what the place actually looks like. They brought along a wraparound wall photo featuring a bird's eye view of the entire downtown lakefront, which is where most of the venue will be located. It made an impression.
Madrid (11.5) hammered home the advantages of their climate and the fact that all sub-venues were only 90 minutes away from the main stadium.This was somewhat overshadowed by Tokyo (5.8) who claim to be planning the most compact Games in history. Around 97 per cent of venues would be situated within an eight kilometres radius of the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village.
Typically, the Tokyo bid also included virtual reality 3-D goggles that allowed the wearer to take their place at the start of the 100-metre final at the proposed new 100,000-seater, solar-powered Olympic Stadium.
But whatever the worthy ideals or the PR spin, it could be all be undone by one person when the charabanc goes to Copenhagen for the announcement.
Barack Obama is widely expected to support his home town by making the trip to Denmark in October. There were no clues in the Chicago presentation. In fact two still photographs would, if anything, suggest the bid team were playing down his significance. Yet a window in the White House diary may make all the difference.
The attendance of Tony Blair in Singapore certainly helped London take the 2012 and Vladimir Putin's arrival made all the difference in winning the 2014 Winter Olympics. In fact the IOC have considered banning the presence of head of states at announcements, such is their influence.
Perhaps that is why the "Around the Rings" Power Index still give the American city a significant advantage. This is an independent website that constantly monitors the bid race. Currently they give Chicago 80 points, Madrid 78, Rio and Tokyo 77. However they have yet to factor in the events of this week.
Were it not for Obama, the value would have to be Rio. But, whatever your hunch, this market need close scrutiny until October.
When the frontrunners are so close, the sprint down the final stretch can be hard to predict.http://betting.betfair.com/specials/other/olympics-betting-very-close-but-chicago-yet-to-play-their-tr-210609.html