Syrian war costs Istanbul IOC votes

BUENOS AIRES - The bloody Syrian civil war cost Istanbul votes over Tokyo to host the world's biggest sporting event in 2020, two influential International Olympic Committee (IOC) members said.

Istanbul - which had been trying to take the Olympic Games for the first time to a predominantly Muslim country - reached the final round of voting for the first time after four previous failed attempts.

However, having edged out Madrid in a run-off vote after they both tied in the first round behind Tokyo, the Turkish city lost heavily in the second round, garnering just 36 IOC members' votes to the 60 received by Tokyo.

Long-time IOC member Prince Albert of Monaco said the unstable situation in the region harmed Istanbul's cause.

"The geopolitical situation certainly played a role," he said. "IOC members prefer sure-fire bets...Istanbul, like the others, was a really good candidate.

"However, Tokyo offered a safe pair of hands. There is no problem with financing the Games, neither for the construction nor the organisation."

There had been concern that Istanbul could suffer from the fallout over the Syrian conflict, which has seen over 500,000 refugees cross over into Turkish territory, although several members denied it would.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been one of the most bullish in demanding that bombing raids be carried out against the Syrian regime, after it allegedly used chemical weapons against its own citizens.

Mr Erdogan also harmed the bid in IOC members' eyes after his security forces used a heavy hand against anti-government protesters in June.

IOC vice-president Thomas Bach said that he and his colleagues had to take a long-term view of how the world would look like in 2020.

"We live in a world in which it is difficult to predict how it will look like three months from now...The members had to make the very difficult decision on how the world will look like seven years from now."