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Marukawa says Tokyo must solve traffic issue before 2020 Games

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s newly-appointed Olympic minister, told the media on Friday one of the biggest concerns she has about hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo is the heavy traffic in the capital, which could cause transportation issues for athletes and fans.

Marukawa, who attended the Opening Ceremony for the on-going Rio de Janeiro Games last week, said Tokyo and the Japanese government would need to address the potential problems the issue could pose for the Olympics in the country’s capital, where roads are perpetually crowded.

“One of the things I think could be a big issue for Tokyo (Olympics and Paralympics) is the traffic jams,” said Marukawa, a former TV Asahi announcer, in a group interview with reporters at her office. “Also, they (Rio de Janeiro) had Olympic lanes, but there were still places that they had (heavy) traffic, despite their wider roads.

“So we’ve got narrower roads in Japan, and I thought about how we’d have to deal with it would be a very difficult issue.”

Marukawa, 45, added that one of the keys to making the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics successful would be to have proper volunteer staff.

“I think that if we have volunteers who welcome our guests (for the Tokyo Games) with the fans’ viewpoint, it may change their impression about Tokyo and Japan,” said Marukawa, who succeeded Toshiaki Endo as the Olympics minister on Aug. 3. “So we would definitely like to work on it.”

Meanwhile, Marukawa said she was moved by the program she observed at the Opening Ceremony in Brazil, and feels it would be an appropriate occasion for Japan to send messages to the world when Tokyo has its turn in four years.

“I thought there’s no other fitting stage from which you can send your messages across the world,” she said. “For us, we’ve overcome tragic disasters (such as the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011) and the Olympics would be very fitting place to show it.”

Marukawa also said she would support the idea of baseball and softball, which the IOC recently announced would be back on the program for the 2020 Games, being held in Fukushima Prefecture, one of the most damaged areas in the 2011 disaster.

“As an environment minister, I’d visit Fukushima often,” she said. “So I’d like to take over the idea from minister Endo and realize it.”