Tokyo, Japan – On Thursday, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission (EC) wrapped up a four-day visit to the Japanese capital to inspect Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics.
During a hectic schedule the EC visited 27 existing and potential venues and reviewed 14 themes in Tokyo’s bid book. On Wednesday the team was received by the Prime Minister at a gala and finally they held a press conference Thursday afternoon before travelling back to Lausanne to file a report.
Tokyo 2020 achieved one of its key objectives during the EC visit – to exhibit passion and enthusiasm, especially for sport. According to Communications Director of Tokyo 2020 Tokuaki Suzuki, this was a success thanks to the Japanese media, schoolchildren and athletes who were seen throughout venue visits.
EC Chairman Craig Reedie said “sport is about athletes the Olympic Games are about athletes, we are never happier as members of the IOC and involved in sport then when we are with athletes.”
“It really has been very, very interesting to speak to the Olympians.
“They are very interesting people. They welcomed us but they are also prepared to tell us what their hopes and dreams are, so we rate that very highly”
At times, hundreds of journalists and photographers descended upon athletes who were medalists in sports such as table tennis and football.
Tokyo 2020 reported earlier in the week that there were over 300 domestic journalists assigned to cover the EC visit, but that number was said to have skyrocketed to 806 as the week progressed. Additionally, the bid reported that there were 80 foreign journalists representing 13 countries at the beginning of the visit but that increased to 120 by Thursday.
Presenting athletes described an array of emotions that were felt while addressing the IOC delegates; they were nervous, proud, excited – and then there was one fencer who said she practiced her written comments so much, the paper wore out.
“We have been hugely impressed by the quality of the bid presentations made by the bid committee,” said Reedie
“Across the board it has been excellent in every way.”
Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose proved he was a strong supporter of the bid by playing tennis with a wheelchair athlete at the tennis venue when the IOC team arrived, and describing many times that he ran his first marathon last year at the age of 65.
The Governor, speaking in English at the closing press conference said “I have really enjoyed this week.”
“I really believe we have showed the best of Tokyo.”
Reedie said “We have witnessed the strong government support that the bid enjoys.”
Then, the gem of the week came Tuesday when the IOC announced that its commissioned poll showed that 70% of Tokyo residents support the bid, an astonishing increase of 23 points from the same poll taken last year. Described as achilles heal of the bid, low public support need not be an issue for the remainder of this campaign.
With public support solved, Takeda says that his bid plan has no issues to overcome.
“This time the support rate exceeded 70%, honestly speaking I am very pleased,” Takeda said.
“There is no big challenge in this bid plan and this message will be delivered to the members of the Evaluation Commission in an elaborate manner.”
To dispel any concerns that local Tokyo tap water was contaminated with radiation leaked from the nuclear power plants in wake of the tsunami disasters in 2011, EC members were served tap water instead of bottled water during presentations.
“We submitted the data to the Evaluation Commission in the last four days to show that the level of radiation is low in comparison with the global standard,” Takeda reported.
Japanese journalists actively sought comments and city rankings from foreign journalists who were frequently appearing on television and in news reports during the visit. They were most interested in speaking to those from Turkey or Spain – the nations of bid competitors Istanbul and Madrid.
They might have answered that Tokyo ended the week in better shape then they started it. By meeting a public support target, showing strong passion and enthusiasm, excelling with their presentations and dispelling the myth of radiation danger in Tokyo, it’s difficult to deny that the evaluation visit was a resounding success.
But with six months to go until the vote, there is still a critical issue to address. The bid needs to clarify its narrative and create a compelling case for hosting the Games. Especially in this 2020 race where each city has the technical ability to host the Games, the bid team needs to explain why the Games should go to Tokyo – and then sell it.
The IOC will select the bid they like the best but not necessarily the bid that is technically best.
The EC will next visit Madrid, Spain for four days starting March 18 and continue to Istanbul, Turkey beginning March 24.
The final election of the 2020 Olympic host will be held September 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina