Ahead of the September general meeting of the International Olympic Committee to decide the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo has returned to using the slogan “recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.”
“I want (the Olympic Games) to give recovery of quake-ravaged regions a burst of momentum,” said Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose at a metropolitan assembly session on Aug. 8. “I hope we can show Japan’s power to the international community, and that (the Olympics) will provide a spark for Tokyo and Japan to make a great leap.”
Tokyo had previously cited “disaster recovery” as a theme of the Tokyo Olympics in its bid application submitted to the IOC in February 2012.
But since many people overseas expressed concerns about radiation leaking from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the possible shortage of power supply, the word “recovery” was not included in documents submitted to the IOC in January.
However, the disaster recovery slogan made a comeback about a month ago.
Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda touched on the March 2011 disaster in presentations to IOC members in Switzerland in July, although he did not refer to the matter at international meetings in May and June.
Tokyo also moved up the date of a relay marathon, which was originally planned to be held following the IOC general meeting in September, to connect the devastated areas and the capital city. The two-week relay wrapped up on Aug. 7.
“Recently the IOC has been telling us that it wants Japan to show more clearly why we think the Summer Olympics should be held in Tokyo,” said a source who is involved in Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid.
While Istanbul, one of Tokyo's rivals to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, has chosen “a bridge between Europe and Asia” and “the first Islamic country to hold the Olympics” as the slogan for its Olympic bid, Tokyo has only emphasized its financial strength and stable security situation.
In addition, Tokyo was defeated in the 2016 Olympic bid by Rio de Janeiro, which touted itself as the first South American city to host the Olympics.
Seeking a more compelling slogan, Tokyo decided to use “disaster recovery” again, according to sources.
“We will explain how the power of sports will contribute to disaster recovery. We also want to display our feelings of thankfulness toward the aid we have received from across the world,” said another source at the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee. “We will appeal to IOC members’ emotions.”
Because concerns related to the aftermath of the disaster were not included in the IOC evaluation report released in June, Tokyo currently plans to consider touching on disaster recovery in presentations at the September general meeting.
To help disaster recovery through the sports event, Tokyo plans to carry out qualifying rounds of the Olympic Games in quake-ravaged regions, employ as many local staff members as possible, and preferentially contract with companies in the areas for the construction of necessary facilities.
It also plans to make the route of the torch relay run through the disaster-hit regions, get foreign athletes to hold training camps there ahead of the Olympics, invite local residents to the event for free and ask Olympic medalists to visit the stricken areas.
Meanwhile, local governments and residents in quake-devastated areas in northeastern Japan have been expressing a mixture of expectation and anxiety.
A city mayor said the Summer Olympics would be of some help to turn people’s attention to the regions, if it is held in Tokyo.
“Memories of the disaster have been fading,” said Takenori Noda, mayor of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. “I want people to turn their eyes to the disaster-hit areas.”
But a resident of Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, said Tokyo is too far away to have a good effect on the stricken regions.
“(The Summer Olympics) will have almost no economic effects on the quake-ravaged areas,” said a 69-year-old clothing shop owner. “People’s attention will be directed toward the Olympics (held in Tokyo), and people would rather forget disaster-hit regions.”
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