• Kyodo


Two female politicians have emerged in key roles for Tokyo’s preparations to host the 2020 Olympic Games, but critics have been quick to voice concern about the new partnership.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday named Tamayo Marukawa as the nation’s new Olympics minister, a day after Yuriko Koike took office as the first female governor of the capital.

Marukawa, 45, and Koike, 64, are expected to work hand-in-hand as Japan prepares to stage the sporting extravaganza in four years.

However, some metropolitan government officials have voiced concern that apparent “bad chemistry” between them may actually hamper preparations.

During the campaign for the Tokyo gubernatorial election, Marukawa, a former TV Asahi newscaster, harshly criticized Koike, a former TV Tokyo newscaster, who ran in the election after parting ways with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Refusing to endorse Koike, the LDP instead fielded former internal affairs minister Hiroya Masuda.

Marukawa made stump speeches a number of times in support of Masuda and said Koike was “only good at grandstanding.” She even said her election as Tokyo governor would be a “waste of time” because Koike would be caught in a feud with the metropolitan assembly and unable to move any policy forward.

Now, Marukawa has been appointed to the Cabinet post in charge of coordinating views between the national and the metropolitan governments in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics.

Compounding matters, some metropolitan officials say Koike is also rumored to be on bad terms with Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee.

“There are so many things we need to make progress with, but this lineup only makes us worry about possible turmoil,” one senior official said, in reference to the combination of Koike, Marukawa and Mori.

However, on Wednesday Marukawa sought to allay any concerns, saying at her inaugural news conference as minister that “it’s crucially important for us to coordinate properly with Tokyo.” She pledged to work with the new governor on the task ahead.

“Work is currently being undertaken to determine the division of roles (in the games’ organization), and based on the outcome of that work, I want the division to be made clear,” Marukawa said.

Former Olympics minister Toshiaki Endo had earned a reputation as an excellent liaison between Mori and Yoichi Masuzoe, Koike’s predecessor as Tokyo governor, who resigned after admitting to improperly using political funds.

The metropolitan government official said since Mori, Marukawa and Koike were all politicians, he expected them to “behave as grown-ups.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday Koike met with Abe in an apparent effort to show that the central and Tokyo governments are working together.

In their first meeting since Koike’s victory in Sunday’s gubernatorial election, the new governor explained to Abe what she wanted to achieve in the role, telling reporters after the meeting that Abe had asked her to “make Tokyo better.”

Koike said Abe responded to her victory in the election by saying, “People want us to cooperate toward a successful Olympics.” They affirmed their willingness to work together.

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