Hiroshima, Nagasaki seek Olympics

A-bombed cities' bid for 2020 games greeted with reluctance by Japan Olympic Committee

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Hiroshima and Nagasaki have decided to set up a joint committee that will try to bring the 2020 Summer Olympics to the atomic-bombed cities, their mayors said Sunday.

The announcement by Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima and Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki came after Akiba expressed hope at an international peace meeting in Mexico City last month to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020 and to stage the Olympics in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that year to celebrate a nuclear-free world.

“The Olympics symbolize the abolition of nuclear arms and world peace, and we want to work to realize our plan to host it,” Akiba said. He also said he will encourage municipalities other than Hiroshima and Nagasaki to join the bid committee.

If the two cities are to formalize a joint bid, they must first discuss the matter with the Japanese Olympic Committee. But the committee has so far been reluctant to endorse the plan, apparently because it doesn’t want to “politicize” the games.

“We know that a call for nuclear disarmament is a powerful appeal, but various issues must still be resolved,” JOC Deputy Chairman Tomiaki Fukuda said.

Another JOC executive, Noriyuki Ichihara, even said, “The International Olympic Committee will find it difficult to accept (the two cities’ joint bid) if the games are labeled as being for nuclear disarmament. So the JOC will think it over.”

Setting the nuclear issue aside, JOC Chairman Tsunekazu Takeda warned that a joint bid by multiple cities is unprecedented.

“We must closely examine the Olympic Charter” to see if this is allowed, he said.

He also said that the JOC has yet to learn from Tokyo’s defeat.

Tokyo’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics ended in failure on Oct. 3 when Rio de Janeiro won the rights to stage it. Tokyo has not decided whether it will bid for the 2020 games, whose venue will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in 2013.

Critics say Tokyo failed because it lacked a vision for why the city should host the games. Toward the final stage of the selection process, Tokyo played up its plans for an environmentally friendly Olympics, but it wasn’t enough to gather votes.

In this regard, the two atomic-bombed cities hosting the games “will send a strong message of peace to the world,” a sports official said. “They will surely become a tough candidate.”

Hiroshima hosted the Asian Games, the regional version of the Olympics, in 1994. About 7,300 athletes from 42 countries and regions participated.

Residents of both cities appeared excited about the plan, which came just after U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his call for nuclear disarmament.