By Jonathan Rest in Tokyo
Sir Craig Reedie, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission for the 2020 games, declared today that he was "hugely impressed" by the quality of the bid preparations from candidate city Tokyo this week, and indicated that environmental and security concerns had been addressed.
Speaking to more than 900 domestic and international journalists on the final day of the commission's four-day inspection of Tokyo's hosting credentials, Reedie said the involvement of the Japanese prime minister, politicians, the governor of Tokyo and the royal family as well as the country's business and sports communities, had all "emphasised the strong national support" that the bid enjoys.
Reedie, a vice president of the IOC, said: "We have seen the enthusiasm of the Olympic Games for Tokyo... I have been hugely impressed by the quality of bid preparations from the [Tokyo 2020] committee.
"We have enjoyed presentations from senior-ranking members of government, the prime minister, the treasury, foreign minister and sports minister. They have answered our questions very open and very well."
He said now was the time to focus on the 2020 bid, instead of trying to compare it with the city's failed bid for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro four years ago.
Japan is involved in a long-standing dispute with China over ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea (Taiwan also lays claim to the islands), while it is simultaneously part of an unrelated but similar dispute with South Korea over the Liancourt Rocks or Dokdo Islands in the Sea of Japan.
Asked by Sportcal whether the evaluation commission had been given sufficient reassurances on the issue of security, Reedie replied: "We are aware of the media discussion surrounding this. We have discussed it among ourselves this week, but it is not something for the evaluation commission to make note of. It is something for the individual [IOC] members to decide upon in Buenos Aires in September."
Taking to the stage after the IOC evaluation commission press conference, Tokyo 2020 officials said there was a desire for closer relations with Japan's neighbours.
Hakuban Shimomura, Japan's minister of education and science, said: "With Korea and China, it is right to say we have historically had territorial questions. But in his general policy speech [to the evaluation commission], prime minister [Shinzo] Abe said both countries are Japan’s most important neighbours. Regarding China and Korea, there will be positive approaches made by Japan.
"Korea has a new president and a new leadership has been formed in China. This mutually beneficial relationship will be solidified and more than ever we will enrich relationships with the neighbouring countries. That is the kind of diplomacy that the Japanese government would like to pursue."
With the second anniversary of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated swathes of Japan approaching on March 11, the topic has been the subject of much debate this week, with particular concerns over the potentially dangerous radiation levels still in and around Tokyo, but both the evaluation commission and the Tokyo 2020 bid team said that the issue had been firmly addressed.
Reedie said: "We asked the bid committee to report on these situations. They are the experts, not us. They have done so and we have noted their comments."
Tsunekazu Takeda, president of Tokyo 2020 and president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said later: "We submitted the data to the commission showing the level of radiation in Tokyo in comparison with the global standard. The data proved that the level of radiation in Tokyo is low."
Takeda said the Tokyo 2020 bid team had "ended this week with many positive feelings" and "many great highlights," most notably, he said, the outcome of a new IOC public opinion poll that showed 70 per cent of people in Tokyo now support the Olympics bid, up 23 percentage points from the IOC's last official survey of the capital's residents in May.
Naoki Inose, the charismatic governor of Tokyo, who has become the focal point of the bid team's activities this week, making five presentations to the IOC inspectors, said he was pleased that the "enthusiasm for the Olympic Games in Japan" message had been successfully conveyed to the evaluation commission.
He added: "We have an exceptional transport infrastructure, cutting edge technology and very high levels of safety and security in Tokyo. We were able to make a solid appeal about these points to the [commission] members. We demonstrated that we can run it [an Olympic Games] and operate it without any delay.
"There is an enthusiasm in the Olympics, and that enthusiasm is overflowing in this metropolitan region. We are acting in unison to win this bid."
Tokyo is bidding to stage the Olympic Games for the second time, after 1964, but is up against two competitors in Madrid and Istanbul that are vying to be first-time hosts.
Asked whether that puts Tokyo at a disadvantage, Inose cited last year's London Olympics, saying: "Yes there is an emotional appeal for a city to host the Olympic Games for the first time. But London hosted it for the third time last year and it too is a developed country. The games were fantastic for the Olympic Movement."