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The head of the committee trying to bring the 2020 Summer Olympics to Tokyo is confident reluctant residents of the Japanese capital will back the bid.
Tokyo is favored by U.K. bookmakers to be chosen over Madrid and Istanbul when the International Olympic Committee selects the 2020 host in September. The city staged the Games in 1964 and lost out to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.
An IOC poll published in April showed Tokyo had the lowest level of public support of the bid cities at 47 percent, compared with 78 percent for Madrid and 73 percent for Istanbul. Support has risen to 67 percent since the Japanese squad brought home a record 38 medals from the London Games, according to Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee and an IOC member.
“After the delegation came back to Tokyo, there was a medal parade and half a million people were in the streets,” Takeda, a showjumper at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, said in an interview following yesterday’s bid presentation in London. “I was so surprised. It means many Japanese people are interested in sports and the Olympics.”
Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid three days ago submitted their hosting plans for 2020 to the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, as they compete to stage sport’s biggest event and attract millions of tourists to their cities.
Tokyo promised a strong delivery, innovation and celebration as pillars of a bid that already has $4.5 billion in place to complete building projects. The event may create as much as 160,000 new jobs and add 3 trillion yen ($34 billion) to the Japanese economy, Takeda said.
Eighty-five percent of the proposed Tokyo venues will be located within eight kilometers (five miles) of the Olympic village. Bid chairman Naoki Inose, elected governor of Tokyo in December, hailed the city’s “world-class infrastructure” that transports close to 26 million people a day.
In the ultimate use of legacy, Tokyo plans to transform its national stadium from 1964 into an 80,000-seat arena for 2020. U.K.-based architect Zaha Hadid, who designed the Aquatics Centre for London 2012, will be designing the venue.
London has set the bar high for future bids, according to Homare Sawa, a women’s soccer silver medalist in 2012 and a former FIFA Women’s Player of the Year.
“London was the best I have experienced, accommodation and logistics were world class,” Sawa, a four-time Olympian who is an ambassador for Tokyo 2020, said at the bid presentation. “In Tokyo, the Olympic village will be at the heart of our games.”
Takeda played down concern over the country’s power supply system and radiation following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, 217 kilometers from Tokyo, which triggered the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
“There is no problem with radiation in Tokyo,” he said. “It is much lower than the international standard.”
The IOC poll also showed 30 percent of Tokyo residents had no opinion about the 2020 bid, while 23 percent were opposed. In Madrid, 5 percent had no opinion and 16 percent were against hosting the Games, with a quarter of those in Istanbul offering no opinion and 3 percent being opposed. Local support is an important criterion for the IOC.
“Thirty percent didn’t say anything, yes or no, that is a problem,” Takeda said. That may be related to people “being shy” and unwilling to give a strong opinion, he added.
Takeda said that percentage will drop as residents become more familiar with the bid through media campaigns and as Olympians give it their backing.
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