View From Tokyo: The Successful 2020 Olympic Bid Signals New Hopes for Japan

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Ian Walton / Pool / Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe celebrates with members of the Tokyo bid committee in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, 2013, after hearing the International Olympic Committee's announcement that Tokyo will be the city to host the 2020 Summer Games

Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics wasn’t a sexy one. But the promise of efficiency, competence and high-tech wizardry was more than enough to convince members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who on Sept. 8 Tokyo time chose the Japanese capital over upstart Istanbul, which, had it won, would have been the first predominantly Muslim host city. (Madrid, the third contender, appeared to have been eliminated in a previous secret IOC vote.)

After Tokyo’s victory in the IOC vote in Buenos Aires, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — who flew to Argentina for the balloting and whose ruling Liberal Democratic Party recently won a landslide election with the motto “Restore Japan” — pledged a “safe and reliable” Olympics.

Tokyo’s choice was seen as a valediction for an island nation that in March 2011 suffered the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear peril. Around 20,000 people died (or have been labeled as missing) during the calamity, and the aftereffects of the radiation outflow from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant continue to fester.

Back in 1964, Tokyo, still less than two decades removed from a catastrophic wartime defeat, held the Summer Games for the first time. That successful hosting was meant to prove the nation’s resurgence, just as the 2008 Beijing Olympics signaled the birth of a powerful, proud People’s Republic. This time around, the 2020 Games are designed to show that Japan can once again stand tall, despite epic natural disaster and more than two decades of economic stagnation.

(MORE: Your 2020 Olympic Host City: Tokyo)

Breaking the Japanese imperial family’s habit of abstaining from international advocacy, Princess Takamado, the widow of a cousin of Emperor Akihito, joined other Japanese officials in Buenos Aires. Despite the early hour of the decision — 5 o’clock in the morning Japan time — revelers in Tokyo flocked to public spaces outfitted with giant TV screens. In an emotional public pitch for the Olympics, Team Tokyo brought in a Paralympic long jumper from Kesennuma, one of the cities devastated by the 2011 tsunami, to make the case for sport’s ability to inspire courage over adversity.

Despite a wish to geographically diversify the Olympics, Istanbul’s chances were likely hurt by the political violence that convulsed the city earlier this summer. The deaths of dozens of protesters earned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rare criticism from the international community amid a campaign to modernize Turkey’s economy.

But despite Abe’s pledge of a “safe and reliable” Olympics, Japan hasn’t proved itself as the paragon of organizational supremacy. Although the nuclear disaster at Fukushima may have been triggered by the double whammy of earthquake and tidal wave, at least some of the continuing crisis is man-made.

(MORE: The News From Fukushima Just Gets Worse, and the Japanese Public Wants Answers)

TEPCO, the utility company in charge of the crippled plant, which continues to leak radiation into the Pacific Ocean, has been plagued by paralyzed leadership and what some see as an almost deliberate disregard of the damaged reactor’s potentially harmful impact. Nor has the Japanese government acted as quickly and forcefully as many have hoped in taking TEPCO to task.

Radiation is, of course, an invisible enemy. Its poison can affect not just the Japanese themselves but also citizens of nations vulnerable to tainted seawater lapping up on their shores. Japanese Olympic officials have promised to ensure the safety of athletes and others joining the Olympic festivities in 13 years’ time. But TEPCO’s underwhelming record thus far hardly inspires wider confidence, no matter how much Abe promised in Buenos Aires that “the [radiation] situation is under control.”

There’s also the question of whether an Olympics is a financially wise move for a developed economy that has a habit of trying to spend its way out of recession through lavish infrastructure projects. But for at least one day, none of that second-guessing or worrying triumphed. Tokyo 2020 was all that mattered.

MORE: Japan: Economy Is ‘Recovering Moderately’

48 comments
ddaappii
ddaappii

I'm very glad to hear that news. I hope it will be the great oppotunity Japan to be a global country.

Elaine Evans
Elaine Evans

Asia is a stable region compared to the Middle East.

olemissbae
olemissbae

What about the radiation outflow?

Clean that up first!

it seems like Japan doesn't know which step comes first!

DBritt
DBritt

Valediction, n. - 1. The action of saying farewell.  2. A statement or address made at or as a statement of farewell.

?

katevanolphen
katevanolphen

I do not support this decision at all. I can I support a country who gets up on the world stage and proclaims the worth of so called scientific whaling. The same country who denigrates my country for opposing it. I will not watch a second of the games.

Priscilla Bedio
Priscilla Bedio

Good luck with that radiation poisoning. Thats if we arent all dead from WW3. What a lovely time we live in.

Dhruv Usgaonkar
Dhruv Usgaonkar

I hope it'll incite Japan to open its frontiers to immigration.

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

@Kelangdbn どの英語のメディアの事を仰っていたんでしょうかね、Daily Mail Onlineの事でしょうか。どっちにしても英語のニュースをいっぱい読んでて偉いですね、としか。

Edoardo Mauro
Edoardo Mauro

It won't. For instance, Chernobyl's radiations can still be very harmful. Actually, it's all about whether or not they will clean up well the mess.

Majed SyRian
Majed SyRian

Obama will hit Syria Pope prays for Syria in order not to beat Obama If you did not beat Obama shaking the throne of America If Obama hit will vibrate the throne of God God in America struggle to prove existence Whatever the results will remain Syria

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Oh my gosh! This will never pass muster with the homosexual-saturated liberal activists news media because Japan does not have "homosexual marriage".

bigdlish32
bigdlish32

@TIME @TIMEWorld lets not forget they have the rugby world cup the year before in 2019. Thats will also have a big impact.

porter
porter

Japan has a way of remaining regressive, keeping itself from opening up. An example is killing whales illegally, under the guise of research and slaughtering dolphins in the cove.

Stephen Swartz
Stephen Swartz

But where are they going to fit in all the athletes?

Jean Pierre Joubert
Jean Pierre Joubert

Congratulations Japan! You have proven yourself before and will so again!

ddaappii
ddaappii

@olemissbae I agree with you . I am also worry about radiation problem. Japan should clean that up as soon as possible.

DBritt
DBritt

Sly reference to global warming?

kazukazu881
kazukazu881

@Michaellakurts えー。ガーディアンは80億ドル以下として見積もられているインフラ予算のうちの45億ドルは蓄えがあると書いてはいますけど、これは「既にオリンピック資金の蓄えを用意している」って意味ですか?数学的に計算が合わない気がするのですが。

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

ガーディアンでも高齢化社会の事は書いてなく無いですね。では「英語圏のメディア」ではなくてNYTはでいいですよね。WSJも日本語版を読む限り経済状態への懸念は他候補値の方が高い様子。@kazukazu881 NYTは指摘してますよ。あなたの英語圏のメディアはBBCだけですか?

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

自分で言ってお忘れになってるようですが「英語圏のメディアが日本の経済や高齢化に付いて主にネガティブな意見を出している」でしたよね?私はそれに対してBBCは違うと申し上げました。@kazukazu881 日本のメディアはオリンピックの予想されるコストと負担を批判的にちゃんと伝えたの

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

最初からそんな事は仰ってませんでしたね。@kazukazu881 私が言っているのはIOCがどういう意図で東京を選考したかではなくて、日本のメディアはオリンピックの予想されるコストと負担を批判的にちゃんと伝えたのか、伝えているかということなのですが?

kazukazu881
kazukazu881

@Michaellakurts ええと、論点が伝わってないようですが、私が言っているのはIOCがどういう意図で東京を選考したかではなくて、日本のメディアはオリンピックの予想されるコストと負担を批判的にちゃんと伝えたのか、伝えているかということなのですが?

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

日本語で読めば判り易いですよjp.wsj.com/article/SB1000… イスタンブールはインフラ整備に巨額の資金が要る、スペインは整っているが経済状態が最悪。東京が最高のチョイスかどうかは置いておいて、お金の問題は一番クリア出来てます。 @kazukazu881

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

結局わかんないわけですよね? @kazukazu881 私、他の都市と比べたツイートしてましたっけ?

Michaellakurts
Michaellakurts

で、他の都市の蓄えはどうなんですかね?決定前からこれだけ準備してれば立派ですよ。@kazukazu881 えー。ガーディアンは80億ドル以下として見積もられているインフラ予算のうちの45億ドルは蓄えが…「既にオリンピック資金の蓄えを用意している」って意味ですか?