• Kyodo

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While the Australian spring remains cool and blustery on the eve of the opening of the Sydney Olympics, things have started to heat up in the bid to host the 2008 Summer Games.

Osaka and four other finalists bidding for the Games kicked off their campaigns in Sydney on Monday, vying for the attention of the International Olympic Committee members who got together for the first day of their three-day general assembly meeting.

The other four finalists for the 2008 Olympics are Beijing, Istanbul, Paris and Toronto. The host city will be chosen at the next IOC meeting in Moscow in July.

On Monday, the campaigners were stationed in their publicity booths set up in the entrance of the hall of the hotel where the IOC is meeting.

Each of the five candidate cities appeared to employ different tactics during the breaks in the IOC meetings to pitch the charms of their cities.

Mayor Takafumi Isomura, who heads the publicity team for Osaka, showed pictures of the city’s well-equipped facilities and stressed, “This is precisely the message we are conveying to the IOC members — that we have this much in store.”

Isomura, in response to a question posed by reporters, also expressed hopes that the bid campaign is “going to be a great competition.”

Meanwhile, Beijing, touted as the overall favorite and considered by Osaka to be its biggest rival, exhibited pictures on panels showing the city streets with the number “1.2 billion,” in reference to the ardent support of the Chinese population.

Wang Wei, a secretary general of the Beijing bid committee, said China, despite being a great power, has never hosted an Olympic Games.

“This is what we are using as a selling point,” he explained.

The campaigns will continue even after the end of the IOC meetings Wednesday at a different venue within the hotel, according to the cities’ officials.

Journalists got a sneak preview of the first Japan House here before its official opening scheduled for Tuesday night to guests and dignitaries.

This is the first time for Japan to sponsor a facility to entertain athletes taking part in the Olympics as well as the sponsors and other people involved in the Games.

The Japan House is the joint project of the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Osaka 2008 Olympic bid committee.

Located in Darling Harbor, Japan House is near the judo venue and other Olympic sites and was set up in a party room reserved at the National Maritime Museum.

The hospitality room will provide drinks and snacks such as sushi for guests.

A corner was also set up to introduce Japanese culture and the city of Osaka, and will offer performances of Japanese dance and “rakugo” comedic story-telling in English.

“This is a great opportunity to have people come to know more about Japan. There is also a tatami space inside the office so the athletes can relax,” one of the Japan House officials said.

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