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Olympics: Bank on us, says Tokyo bid chief

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Tokyo has sent a clear message to the International Olympic Committee less than three weeks before the vote to decide the host city for the 2020 Summer Games: bank on us.

With the IOC under pressure to keep escalating Olympic budgets in check amid protests and political sniping in Brazil and Russia, Tokyo has underlined its promise to deliver a profitable Games without the risk of over-spending.

"We're very healthy," Tokyo 2020 chief executive officer Masato Mizuno told AFP in an interview.

"Tokyo is a safe pair of hands and that includes financial strength. We already have a $4.5 billion Olympic hosting fund so financially there's no problem -- we're secure. We also have city and government guarantees. There is no worry."

Tokyo, which tiptoed into the bidding race after losing out to Rio for 2016, remains the favourite with the bookmakers to beat rivals Istanbul and Madrid for the right to stage the 2020 Games.

Having re-entered the fray with the country still recovering from a deadly tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in 2011, Tokyo's budget and financial stability could be a key factor in the September 7 vote in Buenos Aires.

Mizuno, who has clocked up so many air miles lobbying for votes that he has his right hand in a protective support from constantly lifting his luggage, insisted Tokyo had even more cash at its disposal for 2020.

"The $4.5 billion budget included the main stadium," he said of the $1.4 billion flying-saucer design with retractable roof. "The main stadium has since become the national stadium funded (separately) by the government so we have even more reserves. You can rely on us to deliver."

In comparison, Istanbul's projected infrastructure budget of $19 billion dwarfs those of Tokyo and Madrid, though the IOC has noted much of that sum is not technically tied to the Games.

-- 'It's in the bank' --

Next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi are set to become the most expensive ever at a cost of more than $50 billion -- blasted as "monstrous" by Russian opposition leaders -- while cost overruns are predicted for Rio 2016.

"We have the $4.5 billion," said Mizuno. "Plus, we have revenue from the IOC, revenue from ticketing and also marketing revenue (which) will make I would say $8.5 billion, which is the total budget."

Should Tokyo win, the money would be accessible from the moment the Olympic organising committee sets up operations. "It's in the bank," said Mizuno. "We can draw it out immediately."

Bullish over Tokyo's financial might and strong public support, Mizuno played down concern over potential radiation exposure following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant 150 miles north of Tokyo in early 2011.

On Wednesday, a radioactive water leak at Fukushima was upgraded to a level three "serious incident", the highest warning in two years.

"Regarding the radiation levels, air and water levels are very low and very safe so we're confident (it won't be a factor in the vote)," Mizuno said on Tuesday, before the leak's re-evaluation.

"Plus, there's the distance. Also, we actually monitor 80 points in Tokyo every day and all the levels are very low. There is no problem, no issue."

Mizuno also expressed confidence that Tokyo, which hosted Asia's first Olympics in 1964, could depend on backing from the IOC's Asian members, despite Japan's political tensions with South Korea and China.

"Sport is not the same as politics. For sport there are common rules for competing with each other," he said, adding that Tokyo would adopt an "absolute zero tolerance" policy on doping at the 2020 Games.

"There is friendship and respect. (Our neighbours in) Asia have been friends for many years and when I visit and meet them I'm sure they support us."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130821/olympics-bank-us-says-tokyo-bid-chief