September 7, 2013 / 7:19 PM / 6 years ago

Istanbul or Tokyo to stage 2020 Games, decision due 20:00GMT

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Tokyo or Istanbul will host the 2020 summer Games after Madrid was eliminated in the opening round of voting by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Saturday.

The winner is due to be announced at 1700 local time in Argentina (20:00 GMT), when IOC President Jacques Rogge will open a sealed envelope following a second round of secret voting.

Madrid had been many commentators’ favourites to win the right to stage the Games with a bid focused on being ready, dependable, safe and relatively cheap.

With 80 percent of the necessary investment already made, they had appeared to be an easy option for the IOC, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy telling IOC members earlier on Saturday “numbers don’t lie”.

But the safe option was clearly not enough for the IOC who put Tokyo ahead after the first vote. Madrid and Istanbul tied in second place and then competed in a head-to-head vote to determine who would go through to the second round.

In a slightly confusing series of announcements, some supporters of the Istanbul bid initially thought they had been awarded the Games before Rogge clarified that they had merely progressed to the second round.

Crowds of young supporters in matching ‘Istanbul 2020’ sweatshirts were nervously huddled in a cafe alongside the Rio de la Plata river to follow the vote.

Screams of joy erupted after the nail-bitting showdown. “Tokyo is a good city... But we will beat them,” said Emre Nadar, who oversees the Istanbul bid’s accommodation.

But it was cries of anguish from the Spanish, who had expected a better showing in their third consecutive bid.

“We didn’t expect the voting to turn out this way. We expected to reach the final vote,” Spanish Education Minister and Olympic bid team member Jose Ignacio Wert told reporters in the driving rain.

“The tie with Istanbul was a surprise and once it had occurred we all felt the die was cast, because evidently for the other city (Tokyo), Madrid was logically a more dangerous rival,” suggesting there had been tactical voting to eliminate the Spanish.

Editing by Mitch Phillips

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