- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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President Barack Obama won't be in Buenos Aires this Friday when the International Olympic Committee casts its vote for the host city of the 2020 Summer Games. Vladimir Putin won't be there, either. Nor Tony Blair. Nor perhaps the most famous, influential figure to ever represent a city in its Olympic bid: Oprah (alas, neither she nor Obama swayed the voters during Chicago's 2016 campaign).
But the three contending cities -- Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid -- will argue their cases with their own powerful representatives for the right to spend billions of dollars, devote seven years of work and disrupt the lives of its citizens for a sporting event that will last 17 days.
All of these cities are well-versed with the Olympic bidding process. Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics and it also bid for the 2016 Games. This is Madrid's third consecutive attempt, and Istanbul's fifth in six tries since the 2000 Games were awarded to Sydney in 1993.
Sergey Bubka, the former pole vaulter who hopes to be elected as the new IOC president next week, says all three are capable of hosting a great Olympics. "I think the three are really good," he said. "It's difficult to say who the best right now."
Various bookmakers list Tokyo as the clear favorite with Madrid gaining on Istanbul, but here is a brief glance at some of the pros and cons for each city:
Pros: With so much controversy swirling around Sochi and Rio de Janeiro these days, some consider Tokyo the "safe" choice. Japan's economy, the third largest in the world, is by far the strongest of the three bidders. It also has an excellent infrastructure and transportation system in place.
Cons: There are still some concerns over radiation from the Fukashima nuclear plant disaster. With South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Games and Beijing having hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, if Tokyo gets the bid, it would mean Asia will host three Olympics in a 12-year span. Due to time zone issues, that could be a concern for some broadcasters.
Pros: Istanbul is famous as the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and Turkey also would be the first predominantly Muslim country to host a Summer Olympics, a significant factor in its favor.
Cons: Large-scale, anti-government protests this summer did not help the international image of the city or country. Istanbul’s projected $19.2 billion overall budget -- significantly more than Tokyo and Madrid combined -- is also a concern. The recent widespread doping violations by Turkish athletes doesn't help, either.
Pros: Spain's hosting of 1992 Olympics was an enormous success, leaving a lasting economic and infrastructural legacy in Barcelona, which also benefited greatly as a tourist city. IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president, has some pull. By utilizing existing facilities, Madrid's projected budget is the lowest of the three cities and falls into what the IOC claims is its desire to keep Olympic costs down.
Cons: Spain is still suffering through a bad economy. With an unemployment rate higher than 25 percent, the country is not in a good position to spend more money to host an Olympics, even if it plans to spend less than the other two cities.