Osaka named candidate for 2008 Olympic Games

The city of Osaka defeated rival Yokohama 29 to 17 in a vote by the Japanese Olympic Committee and sports officials Aug. 13 to become the nation’s candidate for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The closed voting followed final presentations by the two cities at Tokyo’s National Olympic Memorial Youth Center in Yoyogi, Tokyo. Twenty executive board members of the JOC Committee and 29 representative from sports associations involved in the Summer Games cast their votes, of which three were deemed invalid.

“Osaka is a city that can compete with other international candidates,” JOC President Hironoshin Furuhashi told a press conference. “The JOC will make efforts of all kinds to win the bid for the 2008 Games.”

Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura thanked voting members and pledged that Osaka would do its best to win the Games over candidate sites abroad. “We have really worked hard in the past five years to make the Olympic Games happen in Osaka,” Isomura said.

In its final presentation, Osaka used large screens to display graphics stressing the merits of its traffic access plan and accommodations. Osaka plans to host most of the events, slated from July 25 to Aug. 10, 2008, within city limits and to provide each athlete with an individual room in the Olympic village.

Following the announcement, Yokohama Mayor Hidenobu Takahide told reporters, “We’re very sorry because we campaigned with all our strength.” Yokohama’s presentation called for venues spread across eight prefectures and a proposal for construction of training centers. Officials said the approach was necessary in a highly populated city planning to host millions of visitors.

“We discussed all aspects concerning the two cities before the voting,” said Yushiro Yagi, executive director of the JOC. “One of the points was which city could realistically host the Games in 2008.”

Yagi did not specify which areas the two cities won or lost, saying that it was each “individual voter’s decision.”

Chiharu Igaya, an executive board member of the JOC and the International Olympic Committee, said voters favored Osaka’s “compact Olympic” plan and the close proximity between the athletes’ village and Kansai International Airport. “In that sense, Osaka can compete well with its international rivals,” Igaya said.

For Osaka, the victory is only the prelude to a tough battle for designation as host of the 2008 Games.

Prague, Beijing, Pusan, South Korea, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Toronto reportedly plan to participate in the bid, in addition to one as-yet undesignated city in Indonesia. London, New York and Moscow will be possibly added to the list. Osaka will face even more international competitors after Sept. 5, when the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, names the host of the 2004 Games.

In the final running for the 2004 Games are Athens, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Rome and Stockholm, and some of the losers are expected to shift their target to the 2008 bid.

“It’ll be a really tough battle to win the bid,” Igaya said. “First of all, we have to see which cities become our rivals after the Sept. 5 decision. Then we will examine Osaka’s merits and demerits in drawing up our strategy. Fortunately, we have time for the campaign. Earning widespread worldwide recognition is our first step.”

Osaka plans to hold six international events by 2003, including judo, table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics world championships. The city must demonstrate its ability to host such large-scale events if it wants to bring the Summer Games to Japan for the first time since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The city will probably gain an advantage if next year’s Nagano Winter Olympics prove to be a success.

At a news conference, Osaka Mayor Isomura said: “We studied many cases of past Olympic Games and drew up a plan focused on very basic things. I think that’s the reason we were able to win.”

Isomura said he felt joy as well as apprehension when the announcement naming Osaka was made.

“To tell the truth, I was dumbstruck because I thought about a lot of things. What I really thought was that we’ve got a rough road ahead from now,” he said.