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Olympic Committee To Select Host City For 2020 Games


And we go now to Buenos Aires where the International Olympic Committee is meeting this week with a full agenda. The committee will pick a host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics. It's weighing which sports to include in those games, too. And the IOC will even elect a new president before it adjourns. NPR's Mike Pesca is in Buenos Aires and joins us now. Hi, Mike.



SIEGEL: And now we have a sense of the delay. Let's talk about the finalists for hosting the 2020 games. It's down to Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The winner will be announced on Saturday. Any sense of who the front-runner is?

PESCA: Well, it's not Istanbul. And that might not have been true a few weeks ago, but I think the protests that erupted over that public park in May really put off a lot of the IOC voters, especially because what the Olympics necessarily brings with it is a lot of public works. So then if you narrow it down between Tokyo and Madrid - I actually recently looked this up - you can make bets on this - in London and some of the European betting shops, and Tokyo's the slight favorite, but Madrid is still seen as a strong candidate. Tokyo, of course, hosted the 1964 games.

It's seen as a competent country that will certainly do a tremendous job. The people of Japan are very much behind it. Looming over that bid is the Fukushima nuclear reactor that comes up in a lot of questions. You know, it's - we're seven years away from the Olympic, so who knows how in the air those concerns will be? Madrid? Barcelona hosted the Olympics in '92. Spain - although the economy is on a downturn, is seen that Madrid would be a strong candidate too. So it will probably be either Tokyo or Madrid.

SIEGEL: Another issue is a vote on what sports will make the final cut. The ancient Olympic sport of wrestling could be excluded from future Olympics as you reported here. That's generated lots of attention. Where does that decision stand now?

PESCA: So there are three sports that could be in the 2020 games. We should say in Rio in 2016, wrestling will be part of the program. But the sport of wrestling was shocked when the Olympics decided to eliminate a sport going forward, and the sport they eliminated was wrestling, not modern pentathlon. So wrestling - FILA, which is international body, they regrouped. They now say we realized we were stuck in a 1950's mindset and we weren't doing the necessary things to modernize our sport or at least to make its appeal known, and there is a lot of momentum behind wrestling. People are now saying, wow, what were you ever thinking bouncing wrestling from the Olympics?

So bearing the brunt of that are the sports of squash, which is certainly a fine sport and played throughout the world. And also, they have a compelling case to make because they have a very portable court and it would look very good on TV. But squash ain't wrestling in terms of how many people participate in it. And then you have this - another group bid between baseball and softball. So softball would be the women's sport. Baseball would be men sport.

I was just at a press conference today where they were talking about the stadium that the sport is played in will be the same stadium. They're just going to fit it a little bit differently for the diamond. A thing hurting wrestling and - sorry - baseball and softball, however, is that Major League Baseball right now hasn't committed. And without the best athletes in the world, that's going to hurt a sport's chances at getting in the Olympics.

SIEGEL: There'll also be a vote for a new president of the IOC, whose first Olympics would be the Winter Games in Sochi next year. A protest over Russia's anti-gay polices have cropped up lately. Any talk about Russia's laws in these biddings?

PESCA: It's very little because these are politicians. Jacques Rogge had his - the outgoing president had his last press conference, and all he said was that the Russians have assured us that they're not going to be arresting anyone who's a visitor or participant. And they're a sovereign country. We can't do anything about them.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Mike. That's NPR's Mike Pesca at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires.


SIEGEL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
Robert Siegel
Robert Siegel is senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel is still at it hosting the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reporting on stories and happenings all over the globe. As a host, Siegel has reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.