BUENOS AIRES – Tokyo was chosen as the “safe pair of hands” to host the 2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday, beating Istanbul and Madrid at the International Olympic Committee’s general session.
The Japanese capital will be the first Asian city to host the Olympics twice, having also hosted the 1964 Games. Japan will be hosting its fourth Olympics. Sapporo and Nagano hosted the 1972 and 1998 Winter Games, respectively.
In a secret ballot by IOC members, Tokyo beat Istanbul 60-36 in the final round to decide the host city after Madrid was eliminated in the first round. While it did not garner the majority of votes in the first round, Tokyo had 42 votes, the most among the three cities.
Istanbul defeated Madrid 49-45 in a tiebreak vote after receiving 26 each.
Tokyo overcame fears of the dangers of radiation-contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, crippled by the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster, about 250 km northeast of the city to win the vote. It also pressed home the message of using the Olympics as a force in its reconstruction efforts from the disaster.
“We are confident our Japanese friends will be able to provide excellent Games. They are the safe pair of hands they describe,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge. “They will provide secure Games, well organized with the welfare of the athletes in mind. I’m quite sure Tokyo 2020 will put the athletes at the center of the Games.”
Members of the Japanese delegation hugged and wept with joy as Rogge announced Tokyo as the winner of the race to host the sporting extravaganza.
“I thought that Tokyo could win,” said Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose said. “But you face the reality of having to make sure you can come across the finish in first. It’s exhilarating, just like being an Olympic athlete. We could win because of our teamwork, the prime minister, the athletes, and everyone coming together.”
“I have waited so many years to experience this joy. It is an honor to be picked as the host city,” added Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, the Tokyo bid chief.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touched on the Fukushima problem in Tokyo’s final presentation and said the government would never put Tokyo in harm’s way, saying, “The situation is under control. Tokyo 2020 will offer guaranteed delivery.”
“My heart was pumping (before the announcement) and I am so happy,” said Abe. “We will respond to the expectations and support by holding a successful Olympics. I think we conveyed the message that we can hold a safe Olympics.”
Abe had stressed at the presentation that the radiation leak has been blocked within the port at the Fukushima complex under constant monitoring.
“We want you (IOC members) to not focus on the headlines from newspapers but the facts,” Abe said as he addressed a question on the Fukushima crisis following his speech.
“It is well within the quality of drinkable water posed in the WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines,” he said.
Just as media reports about the contaminated water issue began to cast a shadow on Tokyo’s final pitch, Abe’s government unveiled ¥47 billion emergency measures to cope with the contamination earlier this month.
“There were worries over the contaminated water but the prime minister delivered a convincing explanation,” said Takeda. “I am delighted that we have responded to the hopes of a nation with this result.”
Princess Hisako, the widow of Prince Takamado, conveyed in her presentation speech a message of thanks for the IOC’s support for children affected by the disaster.
Takeda, Japan’s lone IOC member, touted Japan’s clean anti-doping record in stark contrast with the city’s bid rivals that have come under fire in recent months for doping violations by athletes of their countries.
With its high-quality infrastructure and transportation networks, and a government reserve fund of ¥400 billion, Tokyo delivered the message in the run-up to Saturday’s host city selection that it is the “safest, reliable” city to deliver the Games.
Tokyo was making its second straight bid after losing the 2016 race that went to Rio de Janeiro. Istanbul was making its fifth overall bid, while Madrid was trying for the third time in a row.
“This is the starting line for us,” said swimmer Ryosuke Irie, a silver and bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games. “We want to have a great performance in the next Olympics (in 2016) so we can make the 2020 Games our best ever.”
Tokyo entered the IOC session in the Argentine capital as the favorite but had to overcome the contaminated-water issue. Madrid faced a challenge of coping with its long-slumping economy, while Istanbul’s bid was marred by doping problems as well as a civil war in neighboring Syria.
“I think they learned their lessons from the first time (bidding for 2016),” said Malaysian IOC member Prince Tunku Imran. “They performed very well today. Mr. Abe gave all the right answers. I think it (Fukushima) was an issue, but I think Prime Minister Abe gave a very good answer and we were all satisfied.”
The 2020 Tokyo Games will take place from July 24 to Aug. 9.
“You could see the commitment they made, and now the pressure is on because all of the plans have to come true,” said IOC member Anita DeFrantz of the United States. “The federations want to make sure that the plans for their sports come true as authored.”
John Coates, an IOC member from Australia, said Tokyo told a fabulous story, even in the face of the Fukushima crisis.
“I thought it (the presentation) was very well done. I’ve been a chef de mission six times, for me (the bid) is all about the quality of the village, the proximity of the venues to the village, good transport; it’s going to be so easy to get around.”
About 85 percent of the venues will be in an 8-km radius of the Athletes Village. Venues are in two zones in Tokyo (the Heritage and Tokyo Bay zones), five clusters, and divvied up into six precincts.
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