Mori pitches Olympics ‘for new age’

Kyodo

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Tuesday prior to his official appointment as chairman of the 2020 Olympics organizing committee that he will strive to make the event appropriate for “a new age.”

“I wasn’t thinking of chairing the committee, but once I agreed to help I became more and more involved,” Mori said during a speech in Tokyo.

Also Tuesday, education and sports minister Hakubun Shimomura officially announced Mori’s selection, saying he “has a wide international network, and is the most suitable person for the post.”

The final decision was made in a meeting between Shimomura, Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda and Tokyo Vice Gov. Toshiyuki Akiyama.

Mori, who initially declined requests to chair the committee on account of his age — he’s 76 — called the Olympic preparations his “last act of (public) service.”

“If all goes well, I’m destined to live maybe five or six more years,” he said.

Recalling his memories of the 1964 Tokyo Games, Mori said, “The Olympics represent courage, hope and the act of giving meaning to the future.”

The International Olympic Committee has requested that the organizing committee be set up by Feb. 7. Tokyo and the JOC are preparing to establish the committee by Jan. 24.

Mori became prime minister in April 2000 and was succeeded by fellow Liberal Democratic Party member Junichiro Koizumi.

In his speech, Mori said he has spoken several times with Russian President Vladimir Putin since leaving office and emphasized the need for Japan and Russia to cooperate on economic development and security in Northeast Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to meet Putin this autumn, and they may discuss the dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, Mori said.

“Mr. Abe and Mr. Putin must find a practical compromise to resolve the dispute,” he said.

The tussle over the islands has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty. They were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender in World War II.