TOKYO was awarded the 2020 summer Olympic Games this weekend, beating Istanbul in a head-to-head vote after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a charismatic plea to the International Olympic Committee and promised Japan’s crippled nuclear plant was “under control”.
The Japanese capital won what one insider had called a “least-ugly” contest by most effectively covering its blemishes. Rival Madrid has been laid low by the economy and Istanbul has been beset by anti-government protests.
Tokyo won by a landslide, 60 votes to Istanbul’s 36, after Madrid was eliminated in a first round of voting. Abe, who left early from a Group of 20 summit in Russia to make his pitch at the meeting in Buenos Aires, promised the roughly 100 members of the International Olympic Committee that concerns about the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant 140 miles (230 km) from Tokyo were unfounded.
Fixing IOC members with a level gaze, he said: “It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo. There are no health-related problems until now, and nor will there be in the future – I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way.”
The plant’s operator has said hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean each day, and radiation levels have spiked. Abe’s government said this week it would spend almost half a billion dollars to try to fix the water crisis. He told the IOC on Saturday: “Let me assure you the situation is under control.”