Takeda pleased OCA backs Tokyo 2016 bid

by Jeremy Walker

SINGAPORE — Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda left Singapore on Saturday convinced that the whole of the Asian sports movement was behind Tokyo’s bid to stage the 2016 Olympic Games.

Along with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, Takeda led a strong Japanese delegation at the Olympic Council of Asia’s general assembly in the Raffles City Convention Center on Friday, when OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah officially endorsed Tokyo’s bid.

“The general assembly was a great success, as Sheikh Ahmad announced to everybody that he supports Tokyo 2016,” Takeda told The Japan Times on Saturday, before leaving Singapore for Nigeria on the next leg of his campaign blitz.

“We have the sense that Asia is united. Sheikh Ahmad is the leader of the Asian sports community, so we are very happy that he made this announcement to all members of the OCA. It is a big help for us.”

The 107 members of the International Olympic Committee will choose the host city for the 2016 Olympics at a meeting in Copenhagen on Oct. 2.

Tokyo is bidding against Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

But even though Sheikh Ahmad, an IOC member from Kuwait, expressed his support for Tokyo, his fellow Asian IOC members are not obliged to do the same. Takeda, however, is confident they will.

“I believe it, but I don’t know, because the IOC members vote individually,” he said. “But I believe Asia is one world, united, and I hope we get the support of all the IOC members from Asia.”

After attending the general assembly of the African National Olympic Committees in Abuja, Takeda will push Tokyo’s bid with IOC members at the world swimming championships in Rome and the athletics world championships in Berlin.

“It is a big challenge, and the other three candidates are doing very well,” added Takeda. “It is a very tough race, but only one city will get the gold medal.”

Takeda also played an important role in the OCA’s decision to reduce the number of sports in its showcase event, the Asian Games, held every four years.

The next Asian Games, in Guangzhou, China, in November 2010 will feature 42 sports, and organizers of the 2014 Asiad in Incheon, Korea, were hoping to increase this to 48.

But the OCA has decided that the Incheon Games will feature a maximum of 35 sports: the 28 on the Olympic program, plus seven non-Olympic sports to reflect the diverse sporting culture of the OCA’s five zones: East, Southeast, West, Central and South.

“I know many sports federations want to join the Asian Games,” said Takeda, chairman of the coordination commission for the Guangzhou Asian Games.

“Now it is 42 sports in Guangzhou, and if we do not make a limit the Asian Games will grow bigger and bigger and will be very difficult to organize in the future.

“Even the Olympic Games has 28 sports, so the Asian Games would be nearly double that if we did not make a limit. Therefore 35 is a good number for the future, otherwise only a few big countries would be able to organize such a big Asian Games.”