JOC inspectors check out Osaka’s prospects

Nine members of the Japan Olympic Committee arrived in Osaka on June 10 for a two-day inspection tour of athletic venues and other sites at which the city hopes to hold the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Yokohama and Osaka are bidding for the games, and JOC officials said they are paying special attention to how each city is planning to handle environmental and security issues, as well as convenience of transportation to and from venue sites. Led by Executive Director Yushiro Yagi, the JOC team was greeted with a round of applause from Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura and nearly 200 City Hall employees.

The JOC group held a series of meetings with city officials before setting out for Maishima Island on Osaka Bay, where the city plans to build what it hopes will be the main stadium and athletes’ village. The JOC officials visited Maishima Baseball Stadium, Maishima Arena and two soccer fields before climbing aboard a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view of the island.

“We were quite surprised at the welcome the mayor gave us and the applause we received,” Yagi said at a news conference afterward. “In my experience, such actions are unprecedented.” Yagi said the JOC is concerned about the “compactness” of the prospective sites and transportation arrangements for the athletes. “As you know, there were problems in Atlanta with transportation, and we want to make sure such problems don’t exist in the city that gets the JOC nod for 2008,” he said.

The JOC also received assurance from Isomura that even if Osaka does not get the Olympics, a civic plan to turn Maishima into a sports complex will continue with construction of such sports facilities as a 100,000-seat stadium.