Tokyo, Japan – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission (EC) wrapped up a busy first day in Tokyo Monday as they inspected the city’s plan to host the Olympics in 2020.
The agenda for the day included meetings with presentations reviewing various themes of the bid including the overall concept of the Games, the Olympic Village, the sport plan and the Paralympic Games. In the afternoon, the EC team lead by Sir Craig Reedie took to the road and visited 17 proposed venues.
They visited venues that would be used for cycling, gymnastics, water polo and sailing – should Tokyo win the Games. They also viewed the area that would be transformed into an Olympic Village.
The bid committee also reported that members of the bid team were received by the Crown Prince of the Imperial Royal Family at his Palace, escorted by bid President Tsunekazu Takeda.
At the early-morning launch, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on-hand to welcome the EC.
“I am not here, however, only to welcome you,” said the Prime Minister.
“I am here, because, to host the Games in Tokyo is my life-long dream.”
Abe explained that Japan’s motivation for hosting the 2020 Games is based on the successful legacy of the Tokyo 1964 Olympics.
“In Asia, in 1964, Japan was a lone industrializer and a lone democracy,”
“So for the Japanese, the Olympic spirit became a mission that we must help the rest of Asia grow.
“I hope you are surprised and impressed at how far the Asian have come since.”
On the Prime Minister, Takeda said that his presence was the highlight of the day.
His speech was “very human, very personalized,” said Takeda.
“That impressed us, all of us.”
Takeda emphasized the strong support of the central government, and the value of the Prime Minister’s presence.
“That posture was shown by the Prime Minister himself. That is very important,” he said.
Enthusiasm for the Games seems to have grown since Tokyo last bid four years ago. A Yomiuri Shimbun poll released Sunday revealed that 83% of respondents support the Games, that’s an astounding 11% higher than a similar poll conducted in January. Observers credit improved government support and campaigning for the results.
Hundreds of Japanese press and media have crowded press conferences and venues, anxious to gather details of the bid.
According to the bid committee, there are 81 foreign media personnel in Tokyo representing 13 countries. These include Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.
Towards the end of a day that lasted over 10 hours for the EC, Reedie and his team arrived at the proposed tennis venue – the Ariake Tennis Park – to see Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose playing tennis with Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Inose, 66, who completed his first Marathon just last year played tennis for almost 90 minutes putting on a show for the gathered press before the IOC team arrived.
Inose played a set or two against three-time Paralympic Gold Medalist Wheelchair Tennis athlete Shingo Kunieda. The evaluators cheered, applauded and laughed at the Governor’s strong performance.
“I love sports,” Inose said a couple hours after his performance.
“The last time we emphasized environmental policy,” he continued, referencing Tokyo’s 2016 bid.
“But IOC Members are former athletes.
“This is a celebration of sports.”
Then Inose described in length his admiration of the Paralympic athlete that he was competing against. He described the athlete’s moves, his performance and how much he learned from the Paralympian and the experience.
For a moment during the press conference, Tokyo’s Governor seemed to drift into his own, as a tennis fan, a Paralympic fan, and a genuine fan of sport. That’s something the IOC needs to see as Tokyo moves forward.
The Evaluation Commission visit continues Tuesday in Tokyo.