By STEPHEN WADE
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — In a tight race to land the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo bid leaders tried Thursday to promote the country’s clean record on doping and shift attention from the radioactive water leak at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
The host city will be selected Saturday by IOC members, with Madrid and Istanbul the other candidates. Tokyo is regarded as the favorite in an especially close contest. All three cities present liabilities and IOC members may settle for the bid with the fewest problems.
Istanbul has faced questions about a string of embarrassing doping cases, anti-government protests and a civil war in Syria on its border. Madrid has also tried to deflect inquires about doping and the 27 percent unemployment rate in one of Europe’s largest economies.
Yuki Ota, a two-time silver medalist in fencing, was one of a dozen athletes who appeared at a news conference to promote Tokyo’s bid.
“I’m proud that no Japanese athlete has ever failed a doping test in the Olympics or Paralympic Games,” Ota said. “Japan has a perfect record. ... I do not believe that education about doping can be achieved by one law alone. Long ago, Japan took action.”
Ota was making a veiled reference to recent anti-doping law passed in Spain.
“Our vision is to develop a real champion,” added Daichi Suzuki, a 1988 Olympic swimming gold medalist and a member of WADA’s athletes committee.
“This is something we are really proud of,” he added. “Nobody wants to be strong with cheating. We will fight using only our own ability. That is our ethic.”
Tokyo bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda faced a half-dozen questions on Wednesday, repeating that water and food in Tokyo are as safe as they are in New York, Paris, London or Buenos Aires. There were fewer questions on Thursday with bid leaders repeating Takeda’s line.
Mami Sato, a 2004 and 2008 Paralympic athlete, grew up near Fukushima. She said the disaster in the area 150 miles north of Tokyo was pulling the country together.
“We have already seen the wonderful way athletes have played their part in the effort in northeast Japan where I was born,” Sato said. “I’m very happy to see that. There are more than seven years until the 2020 Games, which means a lot more opportunities to continue this great work.”
British bookmaker Ladbrokes lists Tokyo as the favorite at odds of 4-6, meaning a $6 bet will return $4 plus the original stake. Madrid and Istanbul are the outsiders. Madrid is 11-4 and Istanbul is 3-1.