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Tsunekazu Takeda © Gallo Images

Tokyo opens 2020 Olympic bid campaign in London

Leaders of Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics launched their international promotion campaign in London on Thursday, promising to match or surpass the success of the games held in the British capital six months ago.

Getting a jump on rivals Madrid and Istanbul, Tokyo officials outlined their candidacy at a news conference in London just three days after submitting their bid documents to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland.

Tokyo played up Japan's economic stability and safe reputation and dismissed concerns about nuclear radiation, the territorial dispute with China and public support levels below those of Istanbul and Madrid.

With a high-profile delegation featuring Tokyo's new governor, Naoki Inose, the Japanese team sought to capitalise on the feel-good factor of the London Games.

"London 2012 was seen as a shining example of how to host, deliver and celebrate an Olympic Games," bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda said. "Our aim is to raise the bar even higher."

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, is bidding for a second straight time after finishing third in the IOC vote for the 2016 Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro. Madrid is bidding for a third consecutive time, while Istanbul is back after four previous attempts.

The IOC will select the host city by secret ballot at is session in Buenos Aires on September 7.

"We have kept the best (from the 2016 bid) and improved the rest," said Takeda, who heads Japan's national Olympic committee and became an IOC member last year.

Taking a central role and fielding most of the questions was Inose, who was elected governor in December.

"I'm determined to host the games in the same splendid way as London," he said.

Tokyo, which has been installed as the favorite by British bookmakers, has been rated highly by the IOC for its technical bid but faces the emotional pull of Istanbul, seeking to take the Olympics to a new part of the world in a city that straddles Europe and Asia.

While London spent nearly $16 billion in public funds on building venues for the Olympics, Tokyo has a $4.5 billion "reserve fund" for infrastructure projects for the games. That compares with $19.2 billion for Istanbul and $1.9 billion for Madrid.

The governor said Japan has the world's third largest economy and Tokyo the biggest GDP of any city in the world.

One of Tokyo's weaknesses has been public support, but Inose said enthusiasm has been growing since Japan's strong showing at the London Olympics. A poll by Tokyo organisers cited in the bid book put public support in the city at 62.5 percent, much higher than the 47 percent recorded in an IOC poll last year but still far below Istanbul (93 percent) and Madrid (80 percent).

"There are similarities between the people of London and Tokyo," Inose said. "I'm confident the rate of support will be very high."

The governor also downplayed the simmering territorial dispute with China over control of islands in the East China Sea. Tensions intensified after Tokyo bought the islands from their Japanese private owners in September, prompting Chinese to hold demonstrations and boycott Japanese products.

"Territorial questions happen all the time in the whole world," Inose said. "I'm sure both countries will be able to find a peaceful way to resolve it."

Inose is taking a different line from his predecessor, Shintaro Ishihara, who was a hawk on China and stirred up the dispute with Beijing.

Inose also dismissed concerns about long-lasting effects of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant.

"The radiation numbers in Tokyo are normal," he said. "They may be high in Fukushima, but Tokyo is 220 kilometres (135 miles) away. The radiation levels in Tokyo are the same as here in London."

Looking ahead to September, Tokyo officials said they fully expect new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take part in the final presentation in Buenos Aires. That would be in line with the recent trend of heads of state or government attending the IOC votes.

"I will make him come," Inose said with a laugh.


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