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Japan 2020

Sir Rols

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Japan’s Olympic Dreams and Economic Reality

Tokyo’s mercurial governor, Shintaro Ishihara, gives new meaning to playing the sympathy card.

In his dogged pursuit of staging the Olympics, and in his despair at being passed over for the 2016 games, Ishihara got desperate: He tapped into the outpouring of grief after last year’s record earthquake. His pitch for 2020, dubbed the “Olympics for Japan’s Revival,” became an appeal for pity.

That gambit may be in vain given Ishihara’s role in bringing Japan and China to the brink of war. The Olympic spirit was nowhere to be found as the 79-year-old nationalist proposed buying the Senkaku Islands, which China also claims, from a private owner. The payback should be obvious: Expect China to use its influence in Africa and developing Asia to torpedo Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

Some good might come of all this. Why not switch the locale of Tokyo’s 2020 bid to the northeast Tohoku region of Japan laid to waste by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami?

Talk about a win-win. The International Olympic Committee has a gaping credibility problem. Sure, the London games were transcendent, though that was the U.K.’s doing. The IOC still seems as self-important, commercialized and corrupt as ever. Its complicity with China in censoring media coverage at the 2008 Beijing games remains a stain, as do the bribery scandals over the years.

Tohoku Games

A Tohoku Olympics would yield the infrastructure boom most of the region desperately needs. Japan’s bureaucratic and indecisive central government has proven ill-equipped for the task of rebuilding the towns and villages wiped out on March 11, 2011. The disaster left almost 19,000 dead or missing and forced cartographers to redraw maps of Japan’s northeast coastline.

It is time for a change in tack, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda could be the main beneficiary. His Democratic Party of Japan may soon lose power after just three years. To cement a place in history, Noda should push to let Tohoku take Tokyo’s place.

“It would be good for the image of the IOC, good for Noda and the DPJ,” says Robert Whiting, the author of several books about sports and organized crime in Japan. “If Noda could conflate the cost of holding the Tohoku games, which would be in the range of several billion dollars, with an increase in the commodity tax, I think you’d have a spike in public approval.”

OK, so this is a long shot. Switching the site of Tokyo’s bid would happen over Ishihara’s dead body. Nothing is more important to him than getting the Olympics back to Tokyo for the first time since 1964. And it would run afoul of the IOC’s rulebook that bars Japan from tweaking its bid.

Finally, even the most Herculean of efforts might not be enough to build all of the facilities Tohoku would need in time. The answer is to base the Olympic stadium in Tohoku and enough structures to host a large number of events and then put some venues in neighboring areas, including Tokyo.

The goal should be clear: This is a part of the developed world that needs a major-league stimulus. Now I’m not denigrating the other two contenders -- Istanbul and Madrid. Holding the games in Turkey would be a first for the Muslim world; Spain, the euro zone’s fourth-biggest economy, needs a serious pick-me-up. Tokyo, meanwhile, has two distinct problems: residents don’t want the games and the 2018 Winter Olympics will be in neighboring South Korea.

Compelling Pitch

Staging the Olympics in East Asia so soon after South Korea requires an especially compelling pitch. Hence the appeal of Tohoku prefectures such as Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, all of which are in dire need of money and inhabitants. Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda says games held in Tokyo would generate about $37 billion of commerce and create 150,000 jobs.

Tohoku could use that boost. Careful planning is needed to see that sports facilities will be used after the Olympics, and to ensure transparent efforts clear away the last traces of radiation near the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactors. Why not ask architectural rock star Frank Gehry to bring the “Bilbao Effect” to rural Japan?

“Japan doesn’t get much attention any longer,” says Martin Roll, chief executive officer of Singapore-based consulting firm VentureRepublic. “Bringing the games to Japan would be an unparalleled opportunity for the Japan brand, and despite the hefty price tag around it, it may help to boost awareness and interest in Japan.”

It would bring a sense of urgency, too. The process of doling out reconstruction funds has been slow, unfocused and ineffectual. Hosting the games would change everything.

The IOC’s rules shouldn’t be a distraction. In about six months, Olympic officials will study proposed 2020 sites and IOC members will cast their votes a year from now. Let’s appeal to the IOC to make an exception for the good of Japan, even humanity. If the IOC won’t budge, Japan can withdraw its bid and try again with Tohoku 2024.

Tokyo doesn’t need the games. Tohoku, a place stripped of the veneer of civilization, could use a dose of Olympic spirit.


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Interesting editorial, Rols. Certainly makes sense in a lot of ways. Of course it's too late to change horses now....

I wonder how much influence China has in the IOC. If it is as significant as this story suggests, Tokyo could be in serious trouble -- meaning Istanbul had better get their act together.

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If the IOC won’t budge, Japan can withdraw its bid and try again with Tohoku 2024.


Tohoku is a large region of northen Honshu Island. A very scenic place but the large cities of the region, Sendai (Miyagi), Morioka (Iwate) or Fukushima certainly dont have any ambition to host a Olympic Games

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^^ Wasn't Rome the actual favorite to get the 2004 games back then?

Yes, it was.


Tohoku is a large region of northen Honshu Island. A very scenic place but the large cities of the region, Sendai (Miyagi), Morioka (Iwate) or Fukushima certainly dont have any ambition to host a Olympic Games

None of those cities are big enough to host, though. And even if they were, doubtful that the IOC would be interested anyway, when you still have Tokyo, Osaka & Nagoya as the top Japanese picks.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Tokyo's outspoken governor Ishihara quits to form political party, re-enter national politics

Tokyo's outspoken and nationalistic governor said Thursday he is quitting after nearly 14 years in office to form a new political party ahead of expected national elections.

Shintaro Ishihara, who recently played a key role in reviving a bitter territorial dispute with China, told a packed news conference that he wants to fix the nation's fiscal and political problems. He blamed the central government and bureaucrats for obstructing policies he believes would benefit the country.

"We must change the inflexible rule of the central government bureaucrats," he said, comparing their influence to the dictatorial rule of the shogun.

Ishihara, 80, angered China earlier this year when he proposed that Tokyo buy and develop a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but also claimed by China. The national government responded by buying some of the islands from their private owner, saying it would not develop them.

"I'm returning to the national politics by forming a new party with my colleagues," he said. "What I'm trying to do is everything I've been trying to for Tokyo."


Ishihara blamed Tokyo's failure to win the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games on behind-the-scenes deals, saying Japanese sports officials must become more adept in dealing with the inner workings of the International Olympic Committee.



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JOC chief denies Ishihara's resignation will affect 2020 Olympic bid

TOKYO, Oct. 25, Kyodo

Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda admitted his surprise at Shintaro Ishihara's announcement Thursday that he was resigning as Tokyo governor, but did not think it would affect the Japanese capital's bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.

Takeda, also an International Olympic Committee executive said, "To be honest I never thought (Ishihara) would resign. I don't think this will have major impact (on the bid)."

Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul moved to the final phase of the selection process after their bid plans obtained the nod from the IOC Executive Board in May.

JOC general secretary Nobuyuki Ichihara added, "The bid is a battle between countries. You can't leave it in the hands of individuals. That's why this time it is geared up as an all-Japan bid."

Ishihara is known for his hawkish views toward China and some were of the view that the 80-year-old's resignation could in fact provide a boost to Tokyo's bid.

"China has influence over Asia and Africa so when you take that into consideration I think it (Ishihara's resignation) is far from being a minus," said Kyuhei Muraoka, director of the Japan-China Friendship Association said. "There is still time to improve ties between Japan and China."

Ishihara has expressed hope that Vice Gov. Naoki Inose, a reform-minded journalist, will succeed him as Tokyo leader. There is a possibility that Tokyo's chances of hosting the Olympics could be thrown into jeopardy if the new governor turns out to be skeptical of the bid.

Takeda said, "We will tell the next governor of the necessity of the bid and continue our activities."

Tokyo's venue inspection for the 2020 Olympics will be held from March 4-7 next year.

The commission will then publish its report before a briefing held for IOC members in July. The host of the 2020 Olympics will be elected on Sept. 7 at an IOC Session in Buenos Aires.

Tokyo is bidding to host a Summer Olympics for the first time since the 1964 Games. Japan has hosted two Winter Olympics -- in Sapporo in 1972 and in Nagano in 1998.


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Yokota base joint use still pushed by Tokyo

U.S. military cool to letting airlines share key airport

Tokyo says it badly needs a third airport to help it meet rising demand for passenger flights. And its officials think just the right airport already exists: the U.S. Yokota air base in the sprawling western suburbs under the shadow of Mount Fuji.

So far, despite almost a decade of lobbying from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the central government, the United States has not been persuaded to grant partial use of Yokota. Talks stalled after a 2007 feasibility study raised the possibility of emergency-time chaos if the base was handling both military and commercial aircraft.

But Tokyo's case for sharing Yokota received an unlikely push with the release last week of a report from the Center for a New American Security, a moderate think tank that recommended that the United States reconsider the issue as it boosts its military presence in Asia.

The Pentagon, though, has not indicated it will do so. Cathy Wilkinson, the Pentagon's spokeswoman for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said the Defense Department's conclusions from 2007 still stand.

The think tank's report, which comes after a yearlong study, says dual use of Yokota could potentially help the United States make its military in Japan more nimble, more popular with locals and harder to attack.

Washington could also prove its willingness to cooperate with Japan, diluting the bitterness that dominates base issues in Okinawa.

The United States could also bargain with Japan for a "quid pro quo" deal, the report said, gaining military access to Japanese civilian airports during emergency situations. The report theorized that such access could come in handy as the United States increasingly focuses on potential threats posed by China and other Asian powers.

"Although . . . securing the ability to operate out of additional airports in Japan would only be a small part of a potential U.S. response to counter (China), they would help mitigate the threat," the report said.

In the event of emergencies, the report said, military use must clearly take priority over civilian use.

The United States already has a handful of dual-use facilities across the world, including three in Japan, but Yokota is particularly appealing, lying just 40 km west of central Tokyo. Tokyo's two major airports Haneda and Narita, sit to the south and east of the city, thus several million residents in western Tokyo must travel up to two hours if they want to catch a plane.

Tokyo, compared with other Asian destinations, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, has a shortage of runways for private business flights, meaning it gets passed over for major corporate events and conventions, metropolitan government officials say.

Tokyo is also bidding for the 2020 Olympics, and although the bid does not depend on joint use of Yokota, gaining such access would spur train and road upgrades in the western part of the capital and increase the "vibrancy" of Tokyo, said Takahiro Kojima, a metropolitan official in charge of the Yokota efforts.

Tokyo officials, along with those from the central government, are trying to keep the issue on the front burner. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called on President Barack Obama during an April meeting to consider joint use of Yokota. Earlier this month, Tokyo released a report where it forecast that 5.6 million passengers could fly into and out of Yokota by 2022.

Washington Post


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  • 4 weeks later...

Ishihara Legacy Overshadows Tokyo Gubernatorial Race

On Dec. 16, Tokyo voters get to double up.

Not only will they be summoned to perform their democratic duty in national elections, that Sunday presents them with the chance to answer the call on who should run Japans capital.

And for the first time since 1999, Shintaro Ishiharas name wont be on the Tokyo gubernatorial ballot. Thats because the often-controversial 80-year-old triggered this election by resigning early so as to be able to lead a new national political formation in the national ballot on the same day.

Having been elected Tokyo governor four times in a row, Mr. Ishihara seems well placed to anoint a successorand his choice, Deputy Gov. Naoki Inose, appears to have it in hand. He has backing from major political parties. But rivals on the campaign trail are doing everything they can to make the Dec. 16 poll a referendum on veteran right-winger Mr. Ishiharas record in office, studded with polarizing decisions affecting the capitaland sometimes the whole country.

Leading the challenge to Mr. Inose, a writer of nonfiction by profession, are Kenji Utsunomiya, a human-rights lawyer running on an antinuclear platform, and Shigefumi Matsuzawa, former governor of neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. But they lack the electoral network that has supported Mr. Ishihara and now has swung into action for Mr. Inose.


National issues aside, Mr. Ishiharas local obsessions will weigh in the Dec. 16 vote. Among them is a passion to land the Olympic Games for the capital, now seeking the 2020 event after an unsuccessful run for the 2016 games.

Candidate Inose pledges to continue with the Olympic bid. But while the principle of bringing the games to Tokyo is broadly welcomed by his opponents, some call for the project to include more investment in peoplerather than just the bricks and mortar favored by Mr. Ishihara.



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Inose assured of winning Tokyo gubernatorial election

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Naoki Inose, a prizewinning writer who became Tokyo's deputy chief in 2007, is heading for a clear victory in Sunday's gubernatorial election in the capital, according to Kyodo News projections.

The 66-year-old former vice governor, who was named by his predecessor Shintaro Ishihara as his favored candidate when he stepped down in October to run for a parliamentary seat, has promised to carry on unfinished work, including a bid for the 2020 summer Olympics and integration of Tokyo's two subway systems.



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Tokyo 2020: New Governor-elect Naoki Inose strongly backs the Olympic bid
Naoki Inose is the new Governor of Tokyo / House of Japan

December 16 – Local elections in Tokyo have named Naoki Inose as the successor to Shintaro Ishihara for the key position of Governor of the city. Inose was Ishihara’s favored candidate for the position as he will also be continuing to further the work started by the former city leader.

Tsunekazu Takeda, IOC Member and President of both the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and Tokyo 2020, said on the new post, "Tokyo Metropolitan Governor-elect Naoki Inose is an absolute supporter of Tokyo's efforts to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“He has been an active member of the Tokyo Metropolitan for five years, and has followed the development of our city's bid aspirations.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the new governor and are confident that he will support Tokyo's Olympic and Paralympic aspirations."

Inose is also an award winning writer and former Tokyo vice governor as well so he has experience in working with the gubernatorial offices.

Tokyo is bidding against Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The final decision will be voted on September 7th of 2013 in Buenos Aires at the IOC session.


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Governor Inose named as Tokyo 2020 chairman


December 21 - Tokyo's newly elected Metropolitan Governor Naoki Inose has today been named as chairman of Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, after the 66-year-old prizewinning writer made a pledge to bring the Games back to the Japanese capital for the first time since 1964 at his election on December 16.

Inose (pictured top, second right) was formally welcomed to Tokyo 2020 at a strategy meeting held by the Bid Committee and Council, and attended by top representatives of Government, business and sport today.

"I would like to personally thank the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee for their unyielding passion and dedication throughout this bid campaign," Inose said.

"We have learned important lessons from our previous bid, and now have the experience to deliver a stronger and improved bid plan.

"I will do everything possible to host the 2020 Games, by uniting the country as one through close collaboration with the Bid Committee, national Government, and sports and business communities."



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