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IOC awards Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The IOC has announced that Tokyo is to be the host of the 2020 Olympic Games. Candidate city Madrid was ruled out in the first round of voting and Istanbul lost out in the final round.

Tokyo in Japan is to host the 2020 Olympic Games. It last organised the games in 1964.

Delegations from Turkey, Japan and Spain met with the IOC in Buenos Aires earlier on Saturday for the highly-anticipated vote. Politicians, royalty, athletes and other celebrities represented their respective countries.

Each nation vying for the honored task of hosting the international games had the additional task this year of downplaying its own crisis, sometimes even spinning a crisis into a reason for awarding it the position.

Peace in the Middle East

"We live at a time when our region and the world wish for peace," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said told the IOC panel on Saturday.

The war in neighboring Syria has complicated Turkey's bid for hosting the 2020 Olympics. The armed conflict has driven over two million Syrian refugees into neighboring countries, including Turkey, and has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, international leaders worry the US will launch a military strike against the Syrian government once Congress reconvenes and votes on the issue on September 9. President Barack Obama has already indicated his readiness to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians.

Erdogan called on the IOC panel to consider the Games' positive effect on the region, which currently faces the possibility of falling further into turmoil as the Syrian civil war spills into neighboring countries and Egypt struggles with the consequences of a military coup.

"At this critical moment we would like to send a strong message of peace to the world from Istanbul," the Turkish prime minister added.

Domestic issues, particularly Erdogan's crackdown on opponents, have also threatened Istanbul's chances of winning the bid. In the summer, police crackdowns on civilians protesting city plans, which sought to build over one of the last-remaining green spaces, became frequent and inflicted many casualties.

Fukushima 'not a problem'

Renewed concerns over Fukushima prompted sharp questioning from the IOC about safety issues in Japan. Earlier this week, Tokyo Electric Power said it had found a spike in radiation levels near a contaminated water tank at the Fukushima plant. In response, the Japanese government pledged 47 billion yen ($473.05 million) to help prevent the contaminated water from flowing into the groundwater.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reassured the IOC panel Fukushima posed no threat to safety in Tokyo.

"Let me assure you, the situation is under control," Abe said. "It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."

"Tokyo can be trusted to be the safe pair of hands and much more," Abe said.

The Japanese capital hosted the Games in 1964, a point which the country's delegation referenced in ist strengths as a host.

Games would boost Spanish economy

The final presenter, Spain, emphasized Madrid's cost effective solution to the massive undertaking of hosting Olympic Games, which cost billions. The country may be suffering from the financial crisis, but it already has most of the needed facilities in place, making it less expensive than Tokyo or Istanbul.

"Some people have begun to question the cost of hosting larger events in times of economic uncertainty, but I don't see it as a threat, I see it as an opportunity," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said, adding it would boost Spain's economy at a time of great need.

"We need this now as we need it for the generations to follow," said Rajoy. Unemployment in Spain has topped 26 percent.

kms/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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