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Olympics: Japan PM says Tokyo deserves 2020 Games

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Tokyo deserves to host the 2020 Summer Olympics so that it can show the world how Japan has recovered since 2011's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

Hosting a dinner for a team from the International Olympic Committee that is evaluating Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Games, Abe said: "Japan has its narrative that inspires many. That's why we hope Tokyo will be chosen.

"It is about the disasters we endured, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear failure. But it is also about the revitalisation," he said.

Abe, 58, who quit as premier in 2007 for health reasons, was reelected last December as his conservative party swept back to power.

"The compassion, courage and calmness of those (disaster) victims pushed me to stand again," he said.

"My hope was that by doing so I could tell the nation that anyone deserves a second chance," he said. "That's the powerful message that Tokyo 2020 can send to the whole world."

The Tokyo bid committee has plans to carry the Olympic torch through the disaster zone and stage preliminary Olympic football matches there.

Abe also said Tokyo deserves the Games as the capital of a sports-loving nation which boasts many world-record holders.

The dinner at the Akasaka Palace official guest house was attended by the 14-member team from the IOC evaluation commission and 39 Japanese guests including Princess Takamado, government ministers and medallists from last year's London Olympics and Paralympics.

On Thursday, the team, led by Britain's IOC vice president Craig Reedie, will wind up its four-day tour in which it has scrutinised Tokyo's Olympic blueprint and inspected its existing and planned facilities for 2020.

They will visit rival candidates Madrid and Istanbul later this month and draw up a report on the three bids by July for the 101 IOC members to choose the 2020 host on September 7.

In a presentation on Wednesday, the Tokyo bid committee told the panel that Tokyo's transport networks would easily be good enough to host the 2020 Olympics.

"We won't build anything in particular for the Olympics," an urban planning expert told a news conference after briefing the team on Tokyo's transportation plan.

"I explained that transport facilities, being steadily built under Tokyo's various long-term plans, will fully satisfy demand related to the Olympics," said Takayuki Kishii, a professor of engineering at Tokyo's Nihon University.

He said three new ring roads in the capital will be almost completed in a few years and a projected motorway will run by a waterfront site for the athletes' village.

Infrastructure is seen as a major factor in the selection of Olympic hosts.

The IOC gave the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro, making it the first South American Olympic host, but the Brazilian city is said to have been slow in finalising Olympic projects.

Tokyo is the only one of the three 2020 candidates to have previously hosted the Summer Games, in 1964.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/olympics-japan-pm-says-tokyo-deserves-2020-games