Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose on Tuesday apologized for and retracted comments perceived as critical of Islamic countries that appeared in a recent New York Times article concerning Tokyo’s 2020 bid for the Summer Olympics.
The comments were taken by many as a jab at rival Istanbul, which hopes to become the first city in the Muslim world to host the games.
“I think they were inappropriate. . . . I apologize to the people in the Muslim world as the comments could lead to misunderstandings among Islamic people,” Inose said, reversing a statement made Monday in which he insisted his intention was not accurately reflected in the article.
In the April 26 article, Inose compared Tokyo’s infrastructure favorably to that of the two rival candidates, Istanbul and Madrid. Through an interpreter, Inose was quoted as saying, “Well, compare the two countries where they have yet to build infrastructure, very sophisticated facilities.”
“So, from time to time, like Brazil, I think it’s good to have a venue for the first time. But Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes,” Inose was quoted as saying.
The International Olympic Committee’s rules of conduct prohibit comparisons between bidding cities. Article 14 states: “The cities shall refrain from any act or comment likely to tarnish the image of a rival city or be prejudicial to it. Any comparison with other cities is strictly forbidden.”
Inose told reporters he hadn’t meant to disparage Istanbul, which he has visited and likes.
The governor admitted some ignorance of the rule and said he will observe it more carefully in the future.
Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda has received an email about the matter from the International Olympic Committee, a committee source said Tuesday.
The committee will report to the IOC as soon as possible, the source said.
In a statement submitted to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tokyo organizers said the article took them by surprise for giving the impression the IOC rules prohibiting negative comments about other cities had been violated.
“Tokyo 2020 fully respects and adheres to the IOC guidelines for the candidate cities. We have the utmost respect for all candidate cities and have always taken pride in bidding in a spirit based on the Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship,” organizers said.
On Monday, Inose released a statement denying he meant to criticize other candidate cities. “My intention was not accurately conveyed in the article, which implied Tokyo is criticizing other candidates. . . . I have no intention to criticize other candidate cities at all, and it is very disappointing the article strays from the context of the interview.”
Later Monday, Jason Stallman, sports editor of The New York Times, told Kyodo News: “Both New York Times reporters who interviewed Gov. Inose are fluent in Japanese. The governor also provided his own translator for the interview, and our quotations came from that translator. The translator’s words were recorded.
“We are completely confident in the reporting for our article,” Stallman said.
A day after Inose’s article ran, Turkey’s youth and sports minister Suat Kilic was quoted by the Istanbul 2020′s Twitter account as saying: “The negative statements of the Chair of Tokyo 2020 are unfair and disheartening.”
Information from Kyodo, AFP-Jiji added