April 14 - The world got its first look at the early plans of the five cities bidding for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics when they each made 10 minute presentations at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly here today.
Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo all used their first appearances on the international stage before an audience of 1,200, including 50 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, to try to make an early impression.
While a relatively short time to try to their messages across, the standard of the presentations was impressively high, another sign that this contest is set to be offer more drama over the next 18 months than perhaps was first anticipated.
The presentations were the only opportunity the cities have to present their plans publicly before the IOC's ruling Executive Committee meets in Quebec on May 23 to draw up its shortlist.
Increasingly, it looks like all five bidders will be given Candidate City status especially after Baku, perceived to be the weakest of the bidders, impressed with the quality of their presentation.
Doha, who like Baku were eliminated at the first stage of bidding for 2016, also earned praise for their submission, which was led by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (pictured), Qatar's Heir Apparent.
They managed to shoehorn three videos into the presentation and were the only city to announce a new initiative, a centre to help develop women's sports participation in the Middle East.
They also tried to broaden the reach of their campaign when Sheikh Tamim, the President of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), claimed "this is a bid on behalf of the entire Middle East and North Africa region".
He added: "It is not a single effort of Qatar, but one of a region whose population will reach 700 million people by 2020.
"We want to utilise the 2020 Games to create new sporting and commercial opportunities for the Olympic Movement, and develop sporting programmes and venues that benefit an entire region."
Sheikh Tamim also sought to address head-on the problem of hosting the Games in a country where the temperature is often over 100 degrees.
"Athletes are at the heart of this vision," he told the audience.
"They must have the right conditions to perform.
"That is why the QOC has been engaging with the International Federations on the timing of a possible Doha 2020 Games.
"This has resulted in our proposal to host the Olympic Games from the 2nd to the 18th of October and the Paralympic Games from the 4th to the 15th of November.
"We have chosen those dates to deal directly with the issue of temperature.
"To ensure excellent conditions for athletes, spectators, and media, similar to those of previous Olympic Host cities.
"We are grateful to the Federations for the support they have given to these proposals.
"You could say, we have finally taken the heat out of Doha's so called 'hot issue'."
Istanbul also decided to deal directly with the issue currently overshadowing its bid, the speculation that Turkey might also seek to host football's European Championships in 2020, one of the conditions of which would be them withdrawing its Olympic bid.
"This bid is our nation's primary goal," said Ugur Erdener, the President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT).
"It is led by the Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and Mayor [Kadir Topbaş], who have activated their Governments and have already provided broad guarantees.
"Nearly 90 per cent of people in Istanbul and throughout the country support our bid.
"Without any marketing, more than five million in our city already say they would buy tickets to the Olympic Games.'
"If Istanbul is given this opportunity, we will demonstrate to you that Turkey has no greater goal than delivering spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.
"In the Istanbul 2020 Application File, Turkey made a clear commitment not to host any other event around the 2020 Games.
"This commitment was supported by our Prime Minister.
"It is part of the Host City contract and it is a binding commitment on behalf of Turkey."
Baku, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate that the quality of their bid has improved markedly from four years ago when they were eliminated at the Applicant City stage without much thought by the IOC.
"Baku is a vibrant city; a visionary mixture of ancient and modern architecture, a rich palette of cultures and generations of history," said Mehriban Aliyeva (pictured), Azerbaijan's First Lady.
"Above all, Baku is a dynamic, healthy-lifestyle city.
"On a fine summer day, you can swim in the warm waters of the Caspian Sea, go for a run along the Boulevard or enjoy sports in several newly constructed, state-of-the-art facilities."
To help give their bid some international legitimacy Baku also included as part of their presentation team Australian Bob Elphinston, the former President of FIBA, basketball's world governing body, who was closely involved in Sydney 2000.
"It has been my privilege and pleasure to work alongside an extremely talented Azeri team to produce the Baku 2020 Games plan, a plan based on a singular ideal – the athletes," he said.
Tokyo, widely considered to be the "safe" bet in the race, produced a solid performance that also included perhaps the singular most memorable line of the day from Masato Mizuno, the chief executive.
Flashing a slide of Tokyo's technical plan on to the screen, which they claim includes several significant changes from their previous bid for 2016, he said: "We kept the best and improved the rest."
Madrid, bidding for a third consecutive time having narrowly missed out on 2012 and 2016, conducted more than half of their presentation in Spanish.
They also boasted during a video of Spain being a "founder member of the Euro" - which few people in the audience seemed to think was something to be proud of, bearing in mind Europe's current economic crisis.
Spain has been badly affected by the crisis.
Unemployment hit a record 24 per cent last month, by far the highest in the industrialised world and more than double the 10 per cent European Union average.
Almost half of Spain's young people are unemployed.
None of this, though, was addressed in the presentation and Madrid instead preferred to concentrate on their claim that they already have 40 venues ready to host the Games and only another six would needed to be built if they were awarded the event.
"Madrid is a reality and offers ideal conditions to ensure you will all enjoy the most exciting Olympic experience of your lives," Alejandro Blanco, the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and Madrid 2020.
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