Buenos Aires – Madrid can put two failed bids and years of frustration behind them by winning the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members vote in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The Spanish capital looks to have a slight edge over both Istanbul, which has put together the best and most dynamic of their five Games bids, and Tokyo, the only one of the three to have hosted the global sporting showpiece previously, in 1964.
However, all three reach the finishing line of the arduous two-year political marathon battered and bruised and with question marks over all of them.
Madrid will still have to overcome questions about the Spanish economy, Istanbul has to try and banish memories of the heavy-handed treatment of anti-government protestors in June and worries over the potential fallout from the bloody Syrian civil war.
Meanwhile, Tokyo will have to field growing concerns over the leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Madrid, though, has shown remarkable resilience throughout the race, battling to convince members they could host the Games despite the dire state of the Spanish economy.
They seemingly achieved that goal when the IOC Evaluation Commission gave them the thumbs up for their proposed budget as, with 28 of the 35 venues already built after the failed bids for 2012 and 2016 and the infrastructure in place, there is relatively little extra expenditure.
“As the additional investment required to deliver the Games is relatively modest, the Commission believes that the Spanish economy should be able to support the delivery of the Games,” read the report.
This, followed by an outstanding presentation in Lausanne to the IOC members in July, handed them the momentum that announced them as potential winners.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, while Leader of the Opposition, has had to sit and grin and bear the taste of defeat through two successive Summer Games votes, and he is keen to deliver this time round.
“Life obviously revolves around material things but we are human beings also and we have feelings and for us what is most important is the people's dreams and fulfilling them,” he told AFP in July.
Istanbul too have displayed fighting spirit in what has been an emotion-packed campaign as they strive to become the first predominantly Muslim country to host the Games.
Led from the front by the charismatic businessman Hasan Arat they have banged the drum of waking up in Asia and competing in Europe with their city lying on both continents.
For Arat it represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for the IOC.
“The Olympic Movement can open the door to a new culture,” Arat told AFP.
“It can bridge Olympic culture to new culture. A new bridge to historical impact, with 8000 years of history the Olympic Movement is not just giving the Olympic Games to a city – they (the IOC) would be giving hope, trust and peace to a region.”
Fortunately for Arat, if there is any residual discomfort from what took place in June, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be present at the presentation to answer such questions.
With that audience, however, he will have to be at his most understanding and sympathetic, for a misplaced and impatient answer could totally scupper whatever chances they still have of winning.
Tokyo traded on their being the safest, most secure and financially assured of the bids and for long periods that bore out.
However, the almost daily stories of leaks coming from the Fukushima plant – a result of the tsunami and earthquake of two years ago that left over 18,000 dead – has had an impact on the bid.
Tokyo, though, can turn that round in painting a picture of what it would mean for the people of the region and indeed of Japan should they win the Games.
“This bid is a vivid demonstration of the power of sport with athletes and sport playing a key role at the heart of society after a difficult time,” Takeda told AFP two years ago.
“The Bid process – and ultimately having the chance to host the Games – is helping Japan heal and re-unite after a difficult 2011.
“Without a doubt, Tohoku (the region affected by the tsunami), and the rest of Japan, will benefit from the Games.” – Sapa-AFP