LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Spain's crown prince stealing the show, Madrid made the biggest impact Wednesday among the three cities bidding for the 2020 Olympics and established itself as a serious contender in the race.
Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo made their pitches to IOC members, hoping to seize the momentum in the final two months before the vote.
This was the first time the cities had the chance to present their case directly to the electorate — and Madrid made the most of it, generating a buzz that could make the race tighter than ever.
Counted out by many a few months ago because of Spain's severe financial troubles, Madrid hammered home the message that it offers a low-cost, no-risk bid.
And Crown Prince Felipe, a former Olympic sailor who was Spain's flag-bearer at the 1992 Barcelona Games, charmed the members with his speech.
"If you're grading performance, Madrid did the best in terms of the message and delivery of it," senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said. "The star of the day was the prince. It was his content, his delivery, his genuineness.
"Those who might have Madrid as a distant third would now be rethinking that."
Other members also cited the 45-year-old prince's appearance as the highlight of the day. Britain's Craig Reedie, who wrote a technical report evaluating the bids, said Madrid "lifted their game."
While Madrid stood out Wednesday, members said, all three cities made strong presentations and no candidate looms as a favorite heading into the vote on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It was at a similar meeting in 2009 that Rio de Janeiro grabbed the momentum in the race for the 2016 Games, but members said there was probably no dramatic turn this time to decide the winner.
"I think it's less clear than before," Reedie said.
Istanbul's presentation passed off with scant mention of the anti-government protests that swept the country last month, while Tokyo cited its financial strength and the Olympics as a symbol of Japan's recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Istanbul is bidding for a fifth time overall and Tokyo is back for a second consecutive time. Madrid is bidding for a third time in a row after finishing third in the voting for the 2012 Olympics and second for the 2016 Games.
Spanish IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., who was part of those two bids and sits on the 2020 committee, said it was too early to judge the impact of the presentation.
"I don't know about game changing," he said. "I never thought we were behind, but I don't think we're ahead. We pushed with all we had today. But we have to take a breath today. We won nothing today — nada."
The meetings took place behind closed doors at the Beaulieu convention center. Each delegation had 45 minutes to make speeches and show videos, with another 45 minutes allotted for questions and answers.
Istanbul received no questions about the protests, and Madrid fielded no questions about the economy.
Of the IOC's 100 members, 86 attended the proceedings. Among those absent were FIFA president and Swiss member Sepp Blatter and Britain's Princess Anne.
Madrid has sought to position itself as the safe choice, despite Spain's recession and 27 percent unemployment rate. Madrid brought Economy Minister Luis de Guindos to tell the IOC members that the economy was recovering and the games posed no financial risk.