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Probability of Tokyo Winning the Bid for the 2020 Olympics

Munehiko Harada
Professor, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

When responding to newspaper or television coverage, there is one question that I am almost always asked. "What is the probability of the 2020 Olympics being held in Tokyo?" I always answer with "50%" to this question. In other words, this is something that cannot really be predicted. For hosting of the 2016 Olympics, it came down to a competition between four cities. While Tokyo got 22 votes in the first round of voting, it did not manage to increase the number of votes in the second round, getting only 20 votes and being forced out of the competition.

At that time I was in the Tokyo MX studio trying to predict how the vote would go while referencing the odds of English bookmakers. The city that fell in the first round was Chicago, which had odds of 1.72-1 and was considered to be in the most favorable position. People in the studio gasped with surprise when they learned that Chicago failed to proceed to the next voting round. The odds for the 2016 candidate cities besides Chicago were 3.25-1 for Rio, 8-1 for Tokyo, and 12-1 for Madrid. In the final round of voting the second-place Rio defeated the fourth-place Madrid, results that went to further prove the jinx that the favored candidate loses.

Incidentally, in the bid for the previous 2012 Games, the odds were the highest for Paris at 1.25-1, followed by 3.75-1 for London, 13-1 for New York, 34-1 for Madrid, and 101-1 for Moscow. During this bid as well, the front-runner Paris ended up losing the bid and the second-place London secured the right to host the Games.

Meanwhile, the odds for hosting the 2020 Olympics were led by Tokyo at 2.10-1, and followed by Madrid at 2.75-1 and Istanbul at 3.75-1 as of May 2012. Following the London Olympics in September, the odds for Tokyo increased to 1.2-1, while there was a switch in the second and third-place positions, with the odds for Istanbul at 2.5-1 and the odds for Madrid at 3-1. This improvement in odds is believed to reflect Japan's strong performance at the London Olympics, during which it gained 38 medals and after which a homecoming parade with 500,000 participants was held, and Tokyo still maintains this front-runner position.

In sports like horse racing and bicycle racing, odds represent the multiple of the waged amount that will be paid out on winning bets. In addition, odds are also a quantitative benchmark that represents the sentiment towards the popularity of a race horse or bicycle racer. However, it seems apparent when looking at past Olympic bid results that this sentiment doesn't have a direct impact on the vote of the IOC members. In contrast, it is political decisions and expectations for actual benefit that are not incorporated into this sentiment that are thought to have an effect on the vote of the IOC. It is for this reason that Tokyo cannot afford complacency towards the low odds.

Meanwhile, there has been no change in the low level of support that the Games have in Japan. The results of a survey conducted in December of last year indicated that 66% supported the idea of having the Olympics in Tokyo. The results of the independent research that the IOC conducted from December 2012 to January 2013 are to be reflected in the report to be presented by the IOC Evaluation Committee in its visit to Tokyo this upcoming spring. The problem is the discrepancy between the figures put out by the bid committee and those represented by the IOC's independent research. Looking at past surveys on support rates, in almost all cases the results of research by the IOC indicate supports rates that are 3% to 24% lower than the figures announced by candidate cities. For example, while Osaka announced a support rate of 76% in its proposal for the 2008 Olympics, the results of independent research by the IOC indicated in the evaluation report for the support rate were 52%, and this ended up being one of the reasons that Osaka lost the bid. In general, there is an unspoke rule that the support rate should be at least 70%. Because it is clear that the support rate for Tokyo is below 66%, there is no room for optimism as to how this blemish will affect the IOC's evaluation of Tokyo.

According to the American sports economist Professor Stefan Szymanski, Tokyo's advantages include being able to be trusted with running an efficient, safe Games. However, the professor sees the low level of support and energy shortages caused by the earthquake as disadvantages. Concerns were also raised to the succession of Olympics being held in Asia, including the 2008 Summer Games (Beijing) and the 2018 Winter Games (Pyeongchang) (Time Olympics, 2012).

In fact, the high level of Tokyo's social infrastructure such as means of public transportation and tourist accommodations is one of the advantages raised by the bid committee in holding a compact Olympics. Nonetheless, there are concerns due to this very compactness, such as expected congestion and the vulnerability of overly-precise transportation systems. Furthermore, adequate countermeasures will be needed in response to August temperatures in which the Games are to be held. Specifically, the audience and athletes will be subject to many hours of summer sunlight at temporary athletic facilities to be constructed outdoors without any roofs. During August 2011, 1,765 people were transported to hospitals for heatstrokes and it is expected that even more people will suffer from heatstrokes when the Olympics are to be held. For this reason, countermeasures to support people (particularly foreigners) suffering from heatstrokes are required.

In order to increase the probability of Tokyo winning the bid for the Olympics, it is essential to prepare satisfactory answers to these concerns, as well as to be able to communicate in an elegant and humble manner how holding the Olympics in Tokyo would contribute to world peace and prosperity.

Reference materials:Time Olympics (2012)

Munehiko Harada
Professor, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

[Career Summary]
1954: Born in Osaka, Japan
1977: Graduated from the Faculty of Education, Kyoto University of Education
1979: Completed Master's Program in Health and Physical Education, University of Tsukuba
1984: Completed Doctorate at College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Pennsylvania State University
1987: Served as assistant at National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya
1988: Served as lecturer at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences
1995: Served as Fulbright Senior Research Fellow (Texas A & M University)
1995: Served as professor at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Graduate School
2005 to present: Has served as professor on the Faculty of Sports Sciences, Waseda University

[Current Social Activities]
Japanese Association for Sport Management (JASM) Chairperson
Japan Sports Tourism Alliance (JSTA) Chairperson
Saitama Sports Commissions (SSC) Vice Chairperson
Nadeshiko League Reform Task Force Committee Chairperson
Japan Society of Sports Industry Director
Japanese Society of Management for Physical Education and Sports Director
Fitness Industry Association of Japan Director
Japan Sports Health Industries Federation Director
Shinjuku Foundation for Creation of Future Director
bj league Management Advisory Committee Advisor
Japan Top League Alliance Advisor
Japan Sports Council, Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, Performance Evaluation Committee Member
Japan Sports Association, General Planning Committee, Planning Committee Member
JKA Public Welfare Services Review Committee Member
Tokyo Metropolitan Sports Promotion Council Member
Gakko Hojin Namisho Gakuen, Future Vision Committee Member

[Major Publications]
Physical Fitness, (translation), Baseball Magazine Sha Co., Ltd.
Marketing Government and Social Services, (translation), Yuji Zozo
Sports Industry Theory [Supootsu Sangyo Ron]: Edition 5, Kyorin Shoin
Sports and Leisure Service Theory [Supootsu, Rejaa Saabisu Ron], Kenpakusha
Sports Management Studies [Supootsu Keiei Gaku], Taishukan
Sports Event Economics [Supootsu Ibento no Keizai Gaku] , Heibonsha Limited (shinsho-size edition 145)
Social Economics of Lifelong Sports [Shougai Supootsu no Shakai-Keizai Gaku], Kyorin Shoin
Illustrated Sports Management [Zukai Supootsu Manejimento], Taishukan
On the Ball: What You Can Learn About Business From America's Sports Leaders (translation), Taishukan
Sport Marketing [Supootsu Maaketeingu]: Sports Business Series I, Taishukan
Sports Management [Supootsu Manejimento]: Sports Business Series III, Taishukan
Sports and Health Tourism [Supootsu Herusu Tsuurizumu]: Sports Business Series IV, Taishukan
Sports Facility Management [Supootsu Fashiritei Manejimento]: Sports Business Series V, Taishukan
The New YMCA Strategy[Shin YMCA Senryaku], YMCA Japan