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Tokyo an inspirational choice, Abe tells IOC

IOC vice president Craig Reedie (second left) during an inspection at a tennis court in Tokyo.

IOC vice president Craig Reedie (second left) during an inspection at a tennis court in Tokyo.

Tokyo would be an inspirational choice to host the 2020 Olympic Games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Olympic officials yesterday, with Japan keen to showcase its recovery from a devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Abe made sure that an inspection tour by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) team got off to a heavyweight start.

At stake are an estimated three trillion yen ($32 billion) in potential economic impact and the chance, Japanese officials say, to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 disaster in the way the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games highlighted the nation’s return after its World War Two defeat.

“Tokyo 2020 will inspire many others, just as Tokyo did before in 1964,” Abe, who has been ap-pointed as the bid’s supreme adviser, told the committee.

The 1964 Games were the first Olympics to be held in Asia.

“I ask you to bring the torch right here to Tokyo.”

Tokyo, which lost the bidding for 2016 to Rio de Janeiro, faces Istanbul and Madrid this time around.

The evaluation team, headed by IOC vice president Craig Reedie, arrived in Japan on Friday to the cheers of flag-waving children.

Their tour began formally yesterday with an explanation of the city’s bid and a visit to several sites, including the waterfront area set to become the Olympic Village.

In Tokyo’s favour are the fact that many of its venues are already built.

Planners also emphasise the compactness of its offer, with 85 per cent of the venues located within an 8km radius of the Olympic Village.

The jewel in Tokyo’s campaign is a space-age makeover of the National Stadium, the main venue for the 1964 Games.

The 80,000-capacity venue re-sembles a flying saucer.

The Tokyo government estimates that the Games would increase demand by 1.22 trillion yen in tourism, sales of Olympic goods and household spending. With private sector investments included, the total impact is likely to hit three trillion yen nationwide and include the creation of 150,000 jobs.

In an attempt to ensure the economic spillover would also extend to areas struggling directly with the impact of the 2011 disaster, some soccer play-offs may be held in Miyagi, one of the regions hit hardest by the tsunami.

Tokyo bid officials have acknowledged concerns about the potential for another earthquake but emphasise Japan’s strict building codes, noting that there was minimal damage in Tokyo from the 2011 quake.

The IOC decision will be made in September in Buenos Aires.

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