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Disaster driving Tokyo's 2020 bid plans

Updated: 2011-05-26 15:02
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TOKYO - Tokyo is pushing ahead with its 2020 Olympic Games bid while Japan continues to recover from a deadly earthquake and tsunami and battles a nuclear crisis north of the capital.

A senior Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) said on Wednesday that Tokyo would make a formal announcement in July.

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"The (March 11) disaster threw our preparations into a spin," the JOC's Olympic cooperation director Yasuhiro Nakamori said in an interview days after Hiroshima scrapped its 2020 plans for financial reasons.

"We have to assess the situation with the nuclear issue, although the final decision will be made by the JOC and we will make an announcement in mid-July.

"A bid must also be approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government of course."

City governor Shintaro Ishihara has spoken positively of a fresh bid for 2020 since his re-election for a fourth term last month.

Ishihara came under fire for spending an estimated $175 million on Tokyo's failed bid for the 2016 Games, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. London hosts the 2012 Olympics.

"We are trying to create a positive atmosphere to prepare Tokyo's bid," said Nakamori, adding that the JOC had lent its support to Japanese sports plunged into chaos since the disaster.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and giant tsunami killed around 25,000 people in north-eastern Japan, the 15-metre wave ripping through a nuclear power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Unsettled Future

With radiation spewing into the air and sea and the government finally admitting that fuel rods had melted, sports events in Japan face an unsettled future.

"The JOC helped the Japan Gymnastics Association keep the world championships," said Nakamori, referring to the Oct 8-16 competition which had been in danger of being moved to Moscow.

"We dispatched our vice president (Masato) Mizuno to the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) meeting in San Jose to support Tokyo's case.

"FIFA keeping (December's) Club World Cup in Japan was important too. We have been dispatching famous athletes to the worst-hit areas weekly to give encouragement to the victims.

"The support of sport for those hit by the tragedy is important and the Tokyo government has been hugely supportive too."

Japanese officials plan to make an announcement on July 15-16 at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the JOC with International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge present.

"We must wait for things to settle down at the nuclear plant but we are continuing with our preparations to deliver a bid to the IOC on Sept 1," added Nakamori.

That is the date for candidate cities for the 2020 Summer Games to submit their bids. The host city will be selected in September 2013.

Busan, Cape Town, Doha, Rome and Istanbul are among cities to have declared an interest so far.