Olympics-With committee launch, Tokyo vows to fulfill pledge of superb Games

Reuters

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Japan launched the organising committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Friday, staffing it with heavyweights such as a former prime minister and central bank official as it vowed to fulfill its promise of an efficient and superb Games.

Tokyo won a decisive victory over rivals Istanbul and Madrid to become the first Asian city to host the Summer Games for the second time with its slick presentation and vast war chest, despite concerns about continuing radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

Preparations, however, have been overshadowed by a furore about the size and cost of the main stadium and the resignation of Tokyo governor Naoki Inose over a funding scandal. A new governor will be elected in February.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori will head the organising committee and Toshiro Muto - a former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan and former top Finance Ministry official - will be its chief executive officer.

"When it won the right to host the games, Japan pledged a superb and reliable Olympics as its first promise," Mori told a news conference at Tokyo's futuristic city hall, adding that the power of sport to inspire had been shown yet again as Japan struggles to recover from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

"We hope all the people of Japan will anticipate the Olympics with pleasure as they draw nearer day by day, and that they will join together to welcome the people of the world in 2020."

In its winning bid in Buenos Aires last September, Tokyo touted having $4.5 billion in the bank and its ability to tap into the vast markets of Asia, as well as Japan's reputation for getting things done.

The appeals helped win over an IOC worried about delays for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and difficulties with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

The economic impact of the win was estimated by the Tokyo bid committee at more than 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) with the creation of 150,000 jobs, and helped solidify the reputation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led the bid for the Games in Buenos Aires.

But trouble erupted within months over the plans and cost of a new Olympic Stadium to be erected in place of an ageing structure built for Tokyo's first Olympic Games in 1964, forcing the government to scale it down by cutting floor space in an attempt to cut costs.

Officials had said they originally wanted a top businessman to head the organising committee but ultimately chose Mori, a rugby devotee, who also helped Japan land the 2019 Rugby World Cup, due to his links with the sporting world.

The 76-year-old Mori, whose one-year tenure as prime minister from 2000 to 2001 was marred by gaffes and scandals, noted that some people have questioned his assumption of the job since he will be 83 when the Games take place.

"But that's the real beauty of sports," he added. "It makes you stretch yourself to your ultimate limit." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

View Comments (0)