NEW YORK -- Just three days before the International Olympic Committee is expected to decide which city will host the Summer Games in 2020, an expert familiar with the organization told The Huffington Post Wednesday evening that it seems increasingly likely the IOC will choose the Spanish capital of Madrid.
“To my astonishment, it seems like it’s going to be Madrid,” Wolfgang Maennig, a professor of economics at Hamburg University, told HuffPost.
Maennig, an expert in sports economics, is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a sports business symposium. Not coincidentally, representatives of the national Olympic committees are also currently in Buenos Aires, meeting to decide where the Summer Olympics will be held seven years from now.
Maennig said he met with two Olympic officials, including the president of a national delegation he declined to name, and both said Madrid was quickly pulling away as the favorite to host the Olympic Games over candidate cities Istanbul and Tokyo.
“I talked today to the president of a national federation and people are still afraid of Syria and even Iraq, even though that was years ago, affecting Turkey,” Maennig said on Wednesday. “There are also many concerns about the level of radiation in Japan.”
Maennig's report contrasts with other popular perceptions swirling around the IOC's decision. In June, organization officials issued preliminary scores for the three candidate cities, and both Madrid and Tokyo were in close contention, with Istanbul a dark horse. The officials' scoring was done based on visits prior to the civil unrest that gripped Turkey in June.
Prior to Wednesday, some forecasters were giving a slight edge to Tokyo, seemingly playing down fears Japan might be experiencing elevated levels of radiation as a result of a 2011 nuclear disaster. Further bolstering that city's case, Japan's prime minister said early Monday he would fly to Buenos Aires to personally explain how radiation levels were not an issue for Tokyo. The Japanese Olympic delegation is already at the summit doing a full-court press to push Tokyo's case. According to Reuters, the group "dangled dollar signs in front of the IOC" Wednesday, arguing that Japan is the most economically stable host country of all the candidates.
But fears of radiation remain, Maennig said.
Maennig, who has attended every Olympic Games since 1984 when he competed in rowing, said his personal preference would be Istanbul. As an economist, he has researched the effects hosting the Olympics have on a country’s economy and believes Turkey would greatly gain from the event.
“My personal view is that Istanbul would benefit the most because it’s not a well-ordered city, even though it’s an incredibly important city to Europe historically,” Maennig said. “But of course, they lost their credibility with the protests.”
Madrid has bid for the Olympic in the last three rounds and was the runner-up to host the 2016 games, behind Rio de Janeiro.