December 5, 2013
Olympics: Tokyo downplays Fukushima risk as Games vote nears
Tokyo's Olympic bid team dangled dollar signs in front of the IOC in Buenos Aires, with a vow to leverage Asia's massive marketing potential were it awarded the right to stage the 2020 Summer Games.
The Japanese attempted to play a trump card in the face of a Fukushima crisis threatening to derail their hopes of staging the world's greatest sporting extravaganza.
Tokyo stressed its economic strength and the opportunities available by tapping Asia as it continues to try to woo members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Some 100 IOC members will on Saturday choose between Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo for the host city of the Games.
While Tokyo focused on finances, Istanbul placed athletes at the centre of its bid, promising them an unrivalled experience, and Madrid highlighted its support and backing at home.
Tokyo had been seen as an early favourite, with Madrid hurt by Spain's ongoing economic woes and Istanbul suffering from anti-government protests, the escalating war in neighbouring Syria and a series of doping scandals.
But while Tokyo had been regarded as a financially safe choice, many commentators and people close to the city-selecting process in Buenos Aires are now saying the Spanish bid is gathering pace fast.
The Argentine capital was abuzz with talk of Fukushima after trade and economics minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Reuters that Japan's government is in touch with experts in the United States and elsewhere on ways to control the crisis.
Tokyo's case can hardly have been helped by the news once more placing Fukushima squarely in the spotlight.
But bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda told reporters he had written a letter to IOC members to stress radiation was not a threat to Tokyo, located some 230km (140 miles) from the stricken plant.
"Right now Tokyo's radiation level is comparable to London, Paris and New York and here as well," Takeda said. "It's absolutely safe."
Instead, the Japanese team were hoping to appeal to the IOC's business sense in the high-stakes contest.