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International Olympic Committee chooses Tokyo to host Olympics in 2020

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Japan has mixed record on LGBT issues, but climate is generally favorable. Pride House calls it a "promising choice."

Japan residents celebrate the selection of Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics
Japan residents celebrate the selection of Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics
Adam Pretty

The International Olympic Committee on Saturday voted to award the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to Tokyo, Japan. In the final vote, Tokyo soundly beat out Istanbul, 60-36. Madrid finished third and did not make it to the final vote.

Marc Naimark, of Pride House International and the Federation of Gay Games, sees the selection of Tokyo as an opportunity for the LGBT community and the IOC.

"In terms of the progress to be made for LGBT issues, Tokyo seems a promising choice," Naimark told Outsports. "As an example, we have just been contacted by some Japanese researchers who are seeking more information about LGBT sport. Selecting a host city should not just be about rewarding past good behavior: we need to look at the opportunities a choice like Tokyo offers for the development of LGBT sport and awareness of issues dear to us such as homophobia in sport."

There had been some advocacy by various groups in the last few weeks over the selection since the controversy over Russia's anti-gay laws began. Athlete Ally launched a #ChooseMadrid campaign in social media, collecting about a thousand signatures advocating for the selection of Madrid as the host. Athlete Ally argued that Madrid was the best choice because it has "full equality under the law" for gay people.

Pride House International took a broader approach. Instead of advocating for one city, they sought to educate IOC voters on the issues facing LGBT people in all three of the bidding cities.

"This evaluation should be done by the IOC, but as a start, we are providing a resource page for the men and women voting on the 2020 host on 7 September," said Les Johnson of the Gay Games, which is part of Pride House International. "Better tools are needed for a more in-depth and focused analysis of bidding countries' human rights record - and their potential for change."

While Japan does not allow same-sex marriage, it has taken steps in that direction in recent years. Sexual orientation is not a protected class in Japan, though discrimination on that basis is reportedly rare.

Tokyo previously held the Summer Olympics in 1964. In those Games, the United States won the most golds with the most medals going to the Soviet Union.

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