IOC team starts crucial Tokyo evaluation tour

Kyodo

The International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission began its four-day inspection tour of Tokyo on Monday, with metropolitan officials expressing confidence about the capital’s ability to host the 2020 Summer Games.

At a morning ceremony in Tokyo, Gov. Naoki Inose said: “Nothing would make us happier than to positively create strong bonds with you (members of the IOC). We would like to share with the people of the world the power and joy of sports.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, also made their pitches that the metropolis would be the perfect venue for the 2020 Games.

“Welcome to Tokyo, the city the Olympic torch should visit again in 2020,” Abe said. “I am not here only to welcome you. I am here because to host the games in Tokyo is my lifelong dream. The Olympic spirit was the same spirit that Japan grew to its height.”

Tokyo is the commission’s first stop among the candidate cities before visits to Madrid on March 18 and Istanbul on March 24.

But the capital could face an uphill battle due to a number of factors working against it during presentations to the IOC commission.

The Tokyo bid committee has been working around the clock as it prepares to welcome and explain its candidacy to IOC officials, including evaluation commission chief Craig Reedie, who arrived in Japan on Friday. “The International Olympic Committee places great importance on the process of the selection of the 2020 Olympic Games,” Reedie said in his opening remarks.

The Tokyo bid committee has been rehearsing potential scenarios and drawing up a list of possible questions the commission is expected to ask.

The evaluation commission is to assess Tokyo, compiling a detailed technical report on its plans to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The capital must provide explanations on 14 themes, including the location of venues, security, accommodations, and the all-important vision for the games.

The inspections and subsequent commission report before the IOC’s technical briefing on July 3-4 will be used as reference material by IOC members when they hold their final vote to determine the host city on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires.

“We can’t let our guard down,” said one member of the Tokyo bid committee. “We have to make our best effort.”

Tokyo, which failed in its bid to host the 2016 Summer Games that ultimately went to Rio de Janeiro, has proposed a compact Olympics with almost all venues within an 8-km radius.

It has painstakingly mapped out traveling times of bus routes to the minute on weekday afternoons, which will be when the actual inspections of sports facilities take place.

The bid committee even went so far as to make a test run of a bus after heavy snowfall in mid-January to confirm there were no problems with congestion.

“By having the (travel) schedules carried out with unparalleled accuracy, we will prove Tokyo’s remarkable ability to manage (an Olympics),” Inose said.

The JOC has also been working feverishly on damage control in the wake of a whistle-blower scandal in which more than a dozen female judo wrestlers accused their coach, Ryuji Sonoda, of physical and verbal abuse. Sonoda stepped down, but the scandal could not have come at a worse time for Tokyo.

The capital does not plan to bring up the issue since the commission’s focus will be on assessing the candidature file — but IOC members still could bring up the issue.

“Unless we are asked, there is no reason for us to make it the topic of discussion,” one JOC senior official said. “But we have to have a rock-solid contingency to answer them.”

One senior member of the Tokyo bid committee has said: “Violence toward women is frowned upon overseas more than Japanese people realize. We can’t easily brush this away.”

Tokyo must also tamp down possible IOC concerns about radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the facility.

“We want to present the IOC with data on radiation dosage and countermeasures against tsunami to convince them of the city’s safety,” Takeda said.