MOSCOW – The five cities seeking to host the 2020 summer Olympics made presentations to heads of national Olympic committees on Saturday.
The presentations by Tokyo, Madrid, Istanbul, Doha, Qatar and Baku, Azerbaijan to the Association of National Olympic Committees offered a glimpse of their visions for the games.
The 10-minute presentations were not long enough for significant technical or financial detail, but showed what each city considers its strengths and hinted at what some may consider weaknesses.
The IOC's executive committee will decide in late May whether to keep all the applicant cities as candidates or whether to narrow the field. The International Olympic Committee will pick the winning city in September 2013.
Doha confronted two issues head-on: inclusion of women and desert temperatures.
Qatar is sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time this summer, and the 2020 bid presentation took considerable pains to emphasize that holding the Olympics in Doha would improve conditions for women competitors throughout the Middle East.
"It will enhance and grow women's sports across the region," Sheikh Tamim said.
Searing summer temperatures in the desert emirate make even mild activity tiring, so Doha wants to run the summer games Oct. 2-18 and the Paralympics in November.
"You can say we have finally taken the heat out of the Doha heat issue," said national Olympic committee head Sheikh Tamim in Hamad Al-Thani.
Azerbaijan, like Qatar a predominantly Muslim country, also touted the opportunities for women in the Baku bid. Baku played up the appeal of the former Soviet republic, with bid communications director Narguiz Birk-Petersen calling it "one of the world's oldest but little-known cultures."
While Baku bragged about its proximity to Asia, just across the Caspian Sea, Istanbul also played its trump card on location.
"It is a unique opportunity to celebrate the games on two continents," said Hasan Arat, vice president of the national Olympic committee.
Istanbul, despite its notorious traffic jams, promised a maximum 20 minutes of travel time between the competition venues, which would be in four clusters, and noted that the city is in the midst of a $16 billion mass transit upgrade.
Tokyo, another densely crowded city, promised an even tighter concentration, with 28 of 31 venues in two clusters a maximum 5 miles from the seaside athlete village. Madrid and Doha also offered tightly concentrated plans, with venues within circles of 6 and 9 miles.
Tokyo bid chairman also noted that the city is "totally safe."
The huge financial burden of staging the summer games prompted reassurances from several of the cities that their national economies could handle it. Madrid did not address the issue of the troubled Spanish economy and Doha also left the issue unmentioned, possibly assuming the country is already well-known for having the world's highest GDP per capita.