Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo residents were elated on Sunday after it was announced the Japanese capital had beaten out rivals Istanbul and Madrid in the race to host the 2020 Olympics.
Long considered a slight favorite, Tokyo beat out Istanbul in the final round of voting at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires. Madrid was eliminated in the first round.
Even though it was 5 a.m., a gathering of 1,200 dignitaries and Olympic athletes crammed into at a convention hall in downtown Tokyo to celebrate the news. Cheers of “Banzai” filled the hall when the announcement was made that Tokyo had won.
Tokyo had been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign amid mounting concerns about the leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe assured the IOC on Saturday that the leak of radioactive water from the plant is “under control” and will never affect Tokyo.
“It poses no problem whatsoever,” Abe said in Japanese, adding that the contamination was limited to a small area and had been “completely blocked.”
“There are no health related problems until now, nor will there be in the future,” he said. “I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co., Fukushima’s operator, has acknowledged that tons of radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific from the plant for more than two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at three of its reactors. Recent leaks from tanks storing radioactive water used to cool the reactors have added to fears that the amount of contaminated water is getting out of hand.
Abe and Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Mariano Rajoy of Spain all flew to Buenos Aires straight from the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
All three were repeat bidders: Istanbul for a fifth time overall, Madrid for a third straight and Tokyo a second in a row.
“Tokyo can be trusted to be the safe pair of hands and much more,” bid leader and IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda said. “Our case today is simple. Vote for Tokyo and you vote for guaranteed delivery. … Tokyo is the right partner at the right time.”
Tokyo’s delegation also included Japan’s Princess Takamado.
“This may be the first time a member our family has addressed you, but the imperial family of Japan has always been active in sports,” she said.
With the civil war in neighboring Syria posing a major issue for the Istanbul bid, Erdogan said taking the games to Turkey “will send a very meaningful and strong message, not only to the world, but to our broader region.”
“At this critical moment, we would like to send a strong message of peace to the whole world from Istanbul,” Erdogan said.
Here’s a clip of Tokyo getting the 2020 nod and the elation from Japanese onlookers that ensued: