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Excitement rocks Tokyo upon selection as 2020 Olympics site

TOKYO - After years of largely bad news, crowds in Tokyo roared in excitement as they watched the announcement, streamed live here, that their city has been selected as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

"The outlook has not been so bright for the Japanese and this will be something bright, something Japan will look forward to," said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo, shortly after International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge made the announcement during an IOC meeting Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Japan beat out rival candidate cities Istanbul, Turkey, and Madrid to host the Olympics for the second time. The first Tokyo Olympics was held in 1964.

With an aging population, and massive scars from the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, including ongoing radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the  Olympics could prove both an economic and psychological boost for Japan, analysts say.

The Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee estimates that the 2020 event could generate economic activity in Japan worth $30 billion and create more than 150,000 jobs.

"I think 3 trillion yen [$30 billion] is a very conservative estimate," Ueno said.

Japan has matured as an economy since then and it has suffered from a stagnant image for the last several years, the economist said.

"This could result in Japan doing a makeover," Ueno said.

The announcement is also a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe made an appearance in Buenos Aires and addressed IOC committee concerns over the power plant radioactivity, from damage as a result of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

"Some may have concerns about Fukushima," Abe said. "Let me assure you, the situation is under control. [Fukushima] has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."

Much of the funding for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will come from the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has accumulated $4 billion in reserve funds to host the event, Ueno said.

Hisashi Sanada, sports anthropology professor at the University of Tsukuba, attended an official Tokyo Bid Committee event all night  Saturday. The announcement came a little after 5 a.m. on Sunday local time.

"I am really excited about this and everyone around me is too," Sanada said.

The athletes, bid committee, Tokyo metropolitan government and Japanese government all teamed up and worked together to make the Tokyo bid a success, the professor said.

"This is a chance for Japan to show the rest of the world that has suffered from natural disasters ... how to reconstruct not just devastated areas like Tohoku but also society as a whole through sports," Sanada said.

[Updated, 5 p.m. PDT Sept. 7: Tokyo residents at Komazawa Park, one of the two official Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee event locations, shared his excitement.

Emiko Yamamoto, a 46-year-old public worker, said she was psyched that her three boys would be able to witness an Olympic event up close. “I hope they will consider volunteering for this major event,” Yamamoto said. “I'd like to be part of the Olympics and volunteer too.”

Takashi Miura, 65, a retired office worker, said he watched the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was thrilled that the event will be back in his hometown.

“Japan has been down and lacking energy,” he said. “I think this event would give Japan the revitalization it needs. It's a hopeful chance for change.”

Shinya Taguchi, a 33-year-old office worker, said he was moved when Tokyo's name was announced.

“This will be the first time I'll be able to see the Summer Olympics in my own country,” he said. “I'm already looking forward to meeting all these different people from around the world who will visit Tokyo.”]

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Nagano is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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