Cries of ‘Banzai!’ as Tokyo wins 2020 Olympics bid
TOKYO (AFP) — Tokyo celebrated Sunday after winning the right to host the Olympic Games for the second time, overcoming fears about radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant ,to land the 2020 edition of the world’s biggest sporting event.
Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires chose the Japanese capital, which had previously hosted the Games in 1964, over Istanbul, after Madrid was dramatically eliminated following a first-round tie with the Turkish city.
Thousands of Japanese who gathered in Tokyo in the early hours of Sunday erupted in joy, making V for victory signs and shouting “banzai!” (hurrah!) and “Tokyo!” as the result was beamed live from the Argentine capital nearly a dozen time zones away.
At the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, crowds shouted “arigato” (thank you) in unison, several television hosts and their guests were lost for words and in tears, while at the Komazawa Olympic Park — venue of several sports at the 1964 Games — golden tinsel rained down in celebration.
“I have been waiting a long time for this feeling,” bid chief Tsunekazu Takeda said in Buenos Aires. “The members of the IOC have seen that Tokyo is a safe pair of hands.”
Tokyo city governor Naoki Inose added that the Olympics would help Japan recover from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that claimed more than 18,000 lives and vowed no let up to create what he said would be “the best Games ever”.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier flown to South America from the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, to reassure nervous members about the safety of the nuclear plant some 220 kilometres (140 miles) from Tokyo amid fears about the leaking of contaminated water.Members of Tokyo’s 2020 bid celebrate in Buenos Aires, on September 7, 2013.
He told delegates that the situation was “under control”, adding: “It has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo.”
Concerns over Fukushima — seriously damaged by the quake and giant waves two-and-a-half years ago — had dogged the bid in the final days despite Tokyo’s branding as a safe and sound city, but Abe successfully allayed IOC members’ fears.
The final result was 60 votes for Tokyo against 36 for Istanbul.
Major Japanese television networks reported the voting in special programmes screened through the early hours, while newspapers were preparing to issue special editions to be delivered free on the streets.
“We have now been given a dream, a hope, and a future,” Abe told Japanese television.
“Japan has had 15 years of economic stagnation… and we’ve lost confidence in ourselves. But I hope this will be a chance for us to regain our confidence,” he said in another live broadcast.