The 2020 Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee announced Saturday.
Istanbul and Tokyo were the final two competitors for the honor. Madrid was eliminated in the first round of balloting. Madrid and Istanbul were tied in the initial balloting, but a runoff vote gave that edge to Istanbul 49-45. Tokyo had outpolled both of them in the initial round of International Olympic Committee voting, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Both Istanbul and Tokyo offered notable steps forward for the Olympic experience. Istanbul would be the first time that a primarily Muslim country would host the Olympics, while Tokyo would be the first Asian city to host it twice. Tokyo last hosted the Games in 1964.
Madrid had attempted three straight times to win the Games, but failed yet again despite a pitch for a "sensible, reliable and trustworthy" Olympics. Madrid officials noted that 80 percent of facilities which would have been used for the Games were already built and in use.
Tokyo, meanwhile, positioned itself as a safe option, indicating that no radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster would affect the Games in any way.
"Some may have concerns about Fukushima," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking in English, told the IOC on Saturday. "Let me assure you the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."
While Tokyo had appeared the favorite, concerns over safety had reportedly weakened the city's bid in recent weeks. Abe took pains to dispel those concerns under repeated questioning from the IOC. "There are no health related problems until now, nor will there be in the future," he said. "I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way."
All three cities were repeat bidders. In addition to Madrid's three tries, Tokyo had attempted twice in the last two bids, while Istanbul has now failed in five attempts.
Istanbul's bid was reportedly hampered by the ongoing war in neighboring Syria. But members of the Turkish delegation painted their nation as a bridge between Europe and Asia.
"We believe that hosting the Olympics in Istanbul will give this signal, this spirit of friendship and sharing and peace," said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "And our country is a place where there is a lot of unity and diversity, and that is the idea that we can share on a broader scale with the Olympics Games being hosted in Turkey."
The International Olympic Committee votes for the host cities via secret ballot, with multiple factors beyond simply economic viability coming into play for each voting member.