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Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009

OLYMPICS

Igaya says final presentations key


Special to The Japan Times

INCHEON, South Korea — Japan's highest-ranked sports official in the Olympic movement, Chiharu Igaya, believes the four cities bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games are "neck and neck" entering the home straight.

Igaya, one of four vice presidents of the International Olympic Committee, thinks the final presentations of Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid will be the decisive factor when the vote takes place in Copenhagen on Oct. 2.

Speaking on the sidelines of an international sports forum in Incheon, South Korea, last week, Igaya said: "All of us are quite nervous at this moment because in our opinion all four cities are neck and neck right now. Never before has the presentation played such an important role in capturing the minds of the IOC members to have their votes.

"The bidding city has to make a promise to IOC members that what we say and what we can deliver is the same. We have to explain that in a very explicit way so that the members can appreciate what each candidate city is trying to say and trying to promise."

Each bid will have high-profile support in Denmark, led by U.S. President Barack Obama, but Igaya feels there is nothing to choose between the candidates in this aspect of the race.

Asked if the presence of Michelle Obama, who is already lobbying in Copenhagen, could sway it for Chicago, Igaya replied: "Certainly it will be an advantage for Chicago, but then Brazil will send President Lula, I understand the king and queen of Spain are coming and Japan is sending the new prime minister, so I think here again it is neck and neck."

With rumors circulating in Olympic circles that the European members of the IOC — "about 50 percent," according to Igaya — have decided to vote for Madrid en bloc, this would make it tough for the other three candidates to win support from outside their own continents.

Igaya, however, plays down this concern.

"Such has been said, but no, I don't think so. Individual IOC members have their individual ideas and we are not really under pressure to be united continent by continent," he said.

"Of course Madrid could be favored by the European IOC members because it is a country from Europe. It is natural.

"We wish that we had several more months to work, and we have only less than a week now."

Lula confident on bid

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is confident Rio de Janeiro can win its bid for the 2016 Olympics and he'll "return from Copenhagen with a victory."

Silva will travel to the Danish capital to lobby for Rio ahead of Friday's vote by the International Olympic Committee. Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid are also in the running, and President Barack Obama will be in Copenhagen to push for his adopted hometown.

"This is a fight," Silva said on his weekly radio program. "And if we don't win, we'll have to prepare for another one. But I think we're going to return from Copenhagen with a victory."

Silva said Brazil deserves the Olympics because South America has never hosted the games.



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