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September 2 - Tokyo have been installed by the bookmakers as the favourites to win the race for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics with Baku and Doha ranked as the outsiders.

William Hill has installed the Japanese capital as their 2/1 favourites to host the Games for the first time since 1964 following the confirmation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) earlier today that they are among the six bidders.

Tokyo bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

They reached the second round of voting before they were eliminated.

Tokyo's bid had been placed in jeopardy following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, which killed at least 15,000 people with another 5,000 still missing.

Tokyo being installed as favourites will surprise most people as their bid is widely seen to be hampered by the fact that the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics are being held in Pyeongchang in nearby South Korea.

Hills have listed Madrid and Rome as joint second-favourites at 9/4.

Rome hosted the Olympics in 1960 and were the favourites to stage them in 2004 only to be surprisingly beaten by Athens.

Madrid, meanwhile, which claims to the only major capital in Europe not have hosted the Olympics will be bidding for a third consecutive occasion, having gone close for 2012 and 2016, reaching the last round the last time before being beaten by Rio.

Istanbul, who will be bidding for a fifth time in six Olympics, are seen as the favourites by many experts within the Olympic Movement but are listed only at 6/1 by Hills, which will be seen as outstanding value.

"Tokyo and Madrid missed out on the 2016 Games when it was awarded to Rio and their perseverance in applying once again may well be rewarded," said Hill's spokesman Joe Crilly.

Baku and Doha are listed at 14/1.

But Doha will draw strength from the fact that Qatar's bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup started in a similar position but they ended up seeing off more fancied contenders like Australia, Japan and South Korea before beating favourites United States 14-18 in the final round of voting.

Doha's bid is dependent on persuading the IOC members that they should be allowed to host the Games between September 20 and October 20, which is outside the normal window, to avoid the worst of the Qatari heat.

Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) general secretary Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman today refused to be downhearted by the long odds offered against Doha.

"Our team will be working tirelessly on all aspects of our bid and hosting concept all the way through to the IOC Executive Board meeting in May 2012 when we hope to be confirmed as a 2020 Candidate City and then all the way to the IOC Session in September 2013," he said.

"We want to build on what we have achieved in sport in recent years as we set out our plans to the Olympic Family.

"To have the opportunity to host the first ever Games in the Middle East will have a profound impact not just on sports development throughout the region, but also in encouraging a greater bridge between the Middle East and the wider international community.

"Doha already has significant experience in hosting international events and, of course, that experience will grow further when Doha hosts 8,000 athletes during the Arab Games 2011 this December.

"The IOC Executive Board has shown great vision in allowing us to bid to host the Games outside the traditional date window and we will do all we can to show why that was the right decision."


By Duncan Mackay