Tokyo chases modern Games

It seems just common sense that the cities which will be included today on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) short list to host the 2016 Olympics will be hosting the Games of the 21st century. But Tokyo, one of the applicant cities, appears to want to run faster and further than most with the idea of hosting the most modern and innovative Olympics of our times. «Our selling point will be the Olympic Games in the 21st century,» the chairman and CEO of the Tokyo 2016 Bid Committee, Dr Ichiro Kono, told Kathimerini English Edition. «This century will be the century of cities. According to the UN, maybe more than 60 percent of people will be living in cities. So, we believe that the planet needs a role model for the type of Olympic Games that should be held in cities in the 21st century.» Representatives of the Tokyo bid are in Athens to promote their candidacy along with the other applicant cities of Baku, Chicago, Doha, Madrid, Prague and Rio de Janeiro, as part of the SportAccord convention that is taking place here. IOC officials are also in Athens and are expected to knock a couple of names off the short list they are due to announce. Tokyo should be confident of making it into the next round with a plan that envisages the Games taking place right in the heart of a city where more than 12 million people live and work. «Our strong point is the compact concept,» says Kono. «Ninety-seven percent of the venues will be within an 8-kilometer radius.» Regeneration The venues will be clustered in two zones, named the Heritage Zone, which will take advantage of some of the facilities built for when Tokyo last hosted the Games in 1964, and the Tokyo Bay Zone, which sees the regeneration of a run-down area of the city and the creation of a «sea forest.» The people behind the Tokyo bid believe that by bringing the Games right into the heart of the city, visitors and locals will be able to benefit equally from being engulfed in the Olympic spirit. «We can use the transportation network, the new ring roads, so the athletes can enjoy the city life as well as the sports. «The athletes can compete, train and rest and enjoy the food and culture, just like the visitors. The people of Tokyo will also be able to enjoy this atmosphere. As you have already experienced in Athens, it’s a great time.» Dr Kono was Athens for the 2004 Olympics as an independent observer for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and is hoping that Tokyo can recreate the memorable atmosphere he encountered four years ago. «I had a very good experience in Athens in 2004. At the time, my impression was that people in Athens are fantastic. They were good to us, the athletes, the coaches and the supporters. «I was mostly impressed by the passion for the Olympic Games. Japanese people love the Olympic Games and share the passion of the Athenians for the Olympics. I would like to continue your passion.» Having seen Athens’s infrastructure transformed thanks to the Games, Dr Kono is hoping that the Olympic bid can work in synergy with the city’s local authority, which has already launched a regeneration scheme. «Tokyo 2016 will leave the legacy of the greatest ever urban and environmental transformation. «The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has already a 10-year plan, which we call ‘Tokyo’s Big Change,’ so Tokyo 2016 will be a great catalyst to move the development of Tokyo further.» Green The Tokyo bid committee is keen to emphasize that making the 2016 Olympics the greenest ever held is one of their top priorities. Famed for their technology, the Japanese aim to use their most cutting-edge, such as zero-emission shuttle buses, to good effect. More traditional methods will also be called upon. «At present, 50 percent of Tokyo is covered by greenery and water. We have half a million trees and we plan to double that number.» As a city that is bidding to host the Games for a second time, Tokyo has to overcome the argument that someone else deserves a chance. Kono argues that the Olympics of 1964 were a watershed for Japan, as it recovered from the effects of war, and cannot be compared to the current bid. «The Olympic Games of 1964 had a great impact on the Japanese people just after the Second World War. The Olympic Games helped open our eyes to the world and were very good for us. Tokyo 2016 is a totally different situation. Tokyo is a very big city and maybe one of the first to confront the problems of the 20th century. «We’d like to host the Olympics in Tokyo so it can serve as model for how megacities should hold the Games. Inside Japan, many of the younger generations do not know about the 1964 Olympics. We need to pass on these values to the next generation.» There is also an argument that since the IOC will make its final decision on October 2 next year, less than 14 months after another Asian city, Beijing, has held the Games, Tokyo is unlikely to be awarded the Olympics. But this is a view that Kono does not subscribe to as he believes the pattern of where the Summer and Winter Olympics will be held over the next few years bodes well for Tokyo. «Beijing this year, Vancouver in 2010, London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014. That means Asia, North America, Europe, Europe… and then Asia. We’ve had Athens, Beijing, London, so why not Tokyo?» [email protected] Japan confident it can tackle doping As Greece recently found out, doping is as permanent a fixture of modern sports as fitness regimes and lucrative endorsements. Many would argue that doping has also removed some of the luster from the Olympics but Dr Kono, who has been involved in the fight against drugs in sport for a number of years, believes that doping is just one of the problems that make hosting the Games such a challenge. «The Olympic Games have many kinds of hurdles: commercial, sometimes politics, sometimes security. Doping is one of these hurdles. We need to continue efforts to have clean sports and clean Olympic Games,» he told Kathimerini English Edition. He also thinks that Tokyo is in a unique position to combat the use of banned substances by athletes. «If we can host the Tokyo 2016 Games, I am sure we can mount a strong anti-doping effort. We are very proud of the fact that Japan is one of the leading Asian countries because it was one of the first to set up an anti-doping agency. We also host the regional office of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) in Tokyo.»