city branding

It is Tokyo, after all. It was nearly 6am when a few thousand supporters gathered at Komazawa Stadium, one of the key venues for Tokyo’s 1964 games, exploded in celebration as International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge held up the winning envelope marked “Tokyo 2020." With Madrid ousted at the first round, the Tokyo-Istanbul competition boosted the hopes of the Japanese bidders that eventually took the final vote by a large margin: 60 to 36.

Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics wasn’t a sexy one. But the promise of efficiency, competence and high-tech wizardry was more than enough to convince members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who on Sept. 8 Tokyo time chose the Japanese capital over upstart Istanbul, which, had it won, would have been the first predominantly Muslim host city. (Madrid, the third contender, appeared to have been eliminated in a previous secret IOC vote.)

Most people there will discover the news when they wake up. But some 200 people, mostly those in the government who had worked to bring the games there but also sporting enthusiasts, stayed up together through the night waiting for the news, according the AFP. “As in every competition however, there can only be one winner,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at the voting site in Buenos Aires before opening a sealed envelope that named Tokyo as the host. Japanese committee members cried, hugged, and waved miniature flags in the hall.

On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee will change the destiny of one city forever. Yes, tomorrow's the big day when committee members will decide whether Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. For the chosen city, it's a decision that could catalyze transformative infrastructure projects and long-term investment. Of course, more likely, it will shackle the host city with cost overruns, underused venues and displaced and disaffected citizens.

Skyscrapers are a lot like cadillacs for countries and designers. They’re nice to look at, but they’re also there to impress the neighbors. The bigger and shinier the building, the more important and capable a nation or developer can claim to be. (“Don’t think we’re a serious investment destination, eh? Have you noticed that tower can be seen from Mars?”).

The International Olympics Committee will hold a vote in Buenos Aires on Friday to decide the host of the 2020 Olympics. According to, a site that gathers odds from Internet betting sites, Tokyo bests its competitors at 11-10 (meaning a successful bet of $10 will return $11 plus the original stake). Madrid follows at 11-4 and Istanbul 5-1.

The recent trend of the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, the organizer of soccer’s World Cup, has been to award the planet’s two largest sporting events to cities, countries or regions that have never hosted the global competitions. If that mind-set holds, Istanbul might seem to have the edge over Madrid and Tokyo on Saturday, when about 100 delegates of the Olympic committee will choose the host city for the 2020 Summer Games.

Over the past few years, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings has collaborated with a wide variety of U.S. metro areas to develop localized export plans and explore the importance of increased global engagement. One of the questions frequently raised by local participants revolves around the role mayors and their associated local economic development offices can and should play in global trade and investment. Some assume this is an area private sector firms can best manage on their own.