Tight vote expected for 2020 host

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- The man who led Rio de Janeiro's successful bid to host the 2016 Olympics expects a tight vote among the three 2020 candidates and has warned bidders that a few misplaced words in the coming days could be decisive.

Carlos Nuzman, the leader of Rio's bid four years ago, told The Associated Press that Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo bid teams must pay extra attention to everything they do in the lead-up to Saturday's vote by International Olympic Committee members.

Speaking on the sidelines of the IOC meetings in Buenos Aires, Nuzman said there is no strong favorite among the three, so lobbying must continue.

"There will be a very small gap between the winners," Nuzman said. "It will be close. That's my feeling from what people have been talking."

Nuzman, now the president of Rio's local organizing committee, said that at this stage, it's easier for a city to lose the bid than win it, so the bid teams must avoid hurting themselves by reaching too far for an extra vote here or there.

"You have to work until the last moment," Nuzman said. "But you have to be careful with what you say; you have to be careful with how you act and how you try to get your message across."

In addition to choosing the 2020 host city, the nearly 100 members gathered in Argentina will elect the successor for IOC president Jacques Rogge -- who is leaving after 12 years in charge -- and decide whether wrestling, squash or baseball/softball will be added to the Games' sport lineup. The IOC also had its executive board meeting Wednesday.

Many on the bid campaigns have come to Nuzman asking for help, knowing that what he did seven years ago worked.

"They ask me to give them advice, to give them some guidance," Nuzman said. "But I have to tell them that I can't. Especially because we will want to work together with whichever city wins the bid."

Rio de Janeiro beat Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago in a vote in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. In the final round, it beat Madrid 66 votes to 32 to become the first South American city to earn the right to host the Games.

Nuzman is relieved that this time he is not the one carrying the pressure of having to convince the members.

"When you look at it while standing in the eye of the hurricane, it's different," Nuzman said. "Now you can be more rational about everything that is happening. You can tell what is being done the right way and what's not; you can tell what they should be doing but they are not.

"I have a lot of years of experience in this; I know it works," Nuzman said. "I only got to where I am now because I spent a lot of time at the lobby of hotels. I could write a book about it."

One final push will be made during the closing presentations Saturday.

"You can lose a lot of votes if your final presentation is poor," Nuzman said. "I have no doubt that if your presentation is not good, you will lose it; I've seen it happen."

Nuzman no longer has the pressure of trying to win a bid but does have the responsibility to deliver on it. Rogge warned Wednesday that "it's evident that there are very tight deadlines which will have to be respected" in Rio.

"I don't think there is more pressure from the IOC now," Nuzman said. "When the candidacy is over, you start putting things together, and now it's time to get to work and fine-tune the operation."