BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Tokyo was selected Saturday to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, beating out Istanbul and Madrid in a major victory for a country still recovering from a nuclear plant meltdown.
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Summer Games, was seen as the safest course for the International Olympic Committee, because of its experience organizing major events and its sense of economic security in a time of political and financial uncertainty across the globe. Japan has twice hosted the Winter Games, more recently in Nagano in 1998, and it co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea.
Japan offers a $4.5 billion guaranteed reserve fund, plenty of hotel rooms for visitors and a dependable transportation system. The selection of Tokyo, conducted in a secret ballot by about 100 IOC members gathered here, was also seen as a chance to help a willing and sturdy Olympic partner recover from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, has spent years presenting Tokyo as a “safe pair of hands.”
Istanbul had been seen as a front-runner to host the 2020 competition, as it offered a transcontinental games that would have straddled Europe and Asia, placing the Olympics for the first time in a predominantly Muslim country.
But Istanbul’s chances were considered to have suffered a setback when the police responded harshly to antigovernment protests there in June. The protests evolved into a wider movement against what critics called the autocratic style of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Madrid had been seen as another strong contender, but its battered economy and high unemployment rate, and its poor record on doping, were thought to have scared off Olympic officials.
The Tokyo bid was far from a sure thing, however. In recent years, the IOC and FIFA, organizer of soccer’s World Cup, have pushed to expand their reach by awarding major events to cities or regions that had never played host before. Some felt that Japan was too familiar a host to win for 2020, and that Asia had had its share of Olympic attention: The 2008 Olympics took place in Beijing and the 2018 Winter Games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
There were also concerns of another possible environmental disaster as the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to leak radioactive water into the Pacific.
But as Japan’s delegation celebrated its victory Saturday, it was clear that those fears had been brushed aside.