IOC begins 4-day inspection of Tokyo's 2020 plans
TOKYO (AP) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed IOC inspectors to Tokyo on Monday and said the Japanese capital's bid to host the 2020 Olympics was "second to none.''
Bid organizers are hoping to win over the International Olympic Committee after Tokyo failed in its bid for the 2016 Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro.
The IOC's evaluation commission began a four-day inspection of Tokyo's bid on Monday. IOC vice president Craig Reedie is leading the visit, which will be followed by trips later this month to Madrid and Istanbul, the other two cities vying to host the Olympics.
Abe, Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose and bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda all welcomed the IOC panel at an official reception.
Abe offered the full support of the central government to host the games and recalled the powerful impact the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had on Japan and the region.
"The Olympic spirit was the same spirit with which Japan grew to its height,'' he said in remarks to the visitors. "For the Japanese, the Olympic spirit became a mission that we must help the rest of Asia to grow.''
Abe said it was time for the Olympic torch to return to Tokyo.
"You will hear a lot about our infrastructure,'' he said. "Yes, our preparedness is second to none.''
As Japan now faces the challenges that other countries will face - how to rejuvenate an aging society and keep the air clean - hosting the Olympics in 2020 will "inspire many others, just as Tokyo did before in 1964,'' he said.
Tokyo organizers want to highlight the city's safety and advanced infrastructure, while emphasizing that 28 out of the 33 competition venues will be within five miles of the Olympic Village, which is to be built on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay.
On Monday, the IOC commission visited 16 different venue locations - some yet to be built - and the proposed site of the Olympic Village.
The team visited the Ariake tennis arena, where they watched Gov. Inose rally with Shingo Kunieda, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair tennis. The facility's main stadium would be renovated under the bid plans.
The commission members were also invited to meet Crown Prince Naruhito, who took time to chat with each member, Takeda said.
"We completed the first day without a hitch. I'm satisfied. But we still have three days to go,'' Takeda said.
Tokyo's previous bid was hurt by a demonstration against hosting the Olympics during the evaluation commission's visit, and organizers are hoping there will be no repeat this time.
Public support is much higher this time around thanks in part to Japan's strong showing at the London Olympics.