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Tokyo intensifies campaign for 2020 Olympics bid

With less than a year to go before the International Olympic Committee decides on the host city for the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo has stepped up its campaign to encourage the Japanese people to get behind its Olympics bid.

Fifty-six years after Tokyo last hosted the Olympic Games - which signified the nation's recovery from the devastation of the World War II - the Japanese capital is once again bidding to stage the biggest sporting event in the world.

To mark the countdown from 300 days until the International Olympic Committee (IOC) makes the decision on where the Games will be held, Tokyo has staged a series of events to encourage the public to get behind its campaign and to underline the achievements of Japan's athletes at this year's Olympic extravaganza.

The London Olympics are still fresh in the minds of Japanese sports lovers, with its 295 athletes competing in 24 sports and bringing home 38 medals, including seven golds. That put Japan in sixth in the overall medals table and made London the most successful Olympics to date for Japan.

Eleven medals went to Japanese swimmers, seven were in judo disciplines and six were awarded to wrestlers. And while these are the sports in which Japanese traditionally excel, Ryota Murata won the nation's first boxing gold medal in 48 years in the men's middleweight competition.

Countdown clock unveiled

Alongside Takayuki Suzuki, who won two bronze medals in the Paralympic swimming pool, Murata on Sunday unveiled a giant clock outside Tokyo's Shibuya railway station that is ticking down the minutes and days until the IOC selects the host city for the 2020 Games.

Spain's Mayor Ana Botella, 3rd left and the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, 4th left pose with delegates during the presentation of Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics in Madrid, January 30, 2012
(Photo: Paul White/AP/dapd)

Madrid is also one of the contenders

Elsewhere in the city, Satoshi Shimizu showed off the bronze medal he won as a bantamweight boxer in London, while jodoka Mika Sugimoto joined up with women's weightlifter Hiromi Miyake and Paralympic long jumper Mami Sato at a promotional event in Koto Ward.

Operators of the Toei Oedo subway line have decorated their 38 stations and carriages with stickers and posters bearing the Tokyo 2020 bid emblem.

Tokyomade an unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, but has high hopes that it will be selected when the announcement for the 2020 Olympics is made on September 7, 2013.

Shortly before the London Games got under way, the IOC whittled the number of candidate cities down to three: Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.

The cities of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and Doha, in Qatar, were knocked out of the running for the 2020 Games after the IOC examined their ability to host a major sporting event, including factors such as public transportation and other infrastructure that needs to be improved before the event can go ahead.

Romewithdrew its candidature in February as a result of Italy's financial problems. Similar financial worries may hurt Madrid's campaign to host the event, while Istanbul's bid has apparently been damaged by the fact that it is bidding in parallel to host the 2020 European Championship in soccer

The IOC has previously repeated that its rules state that a host country cannot host another major sporting event in the same year.

Tokyoas the front-runner

Tokyo's emergence as the front-runner has been welcomed in the Japanese capital.

"For realizing the Olympics in Japan, it will be very important to gain support from the Japanese people," said Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee. "We request the active support of all people."

Those sentiments were echoed by Shintaro Ishihara, the former governor of Tokyo, who told a press conference, "We shall realize the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics with the whole of Japan working together."

Shintaro Ishihara
(Photo: Koji Sasahara/AP/dapd)

Shintaro Ishihara, former governor of Tokyo, is hopeful the IOC will choose Tokyo

The committee behind Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 event estimates it will generate economic activity across Japan to the tune of 29.22 billion euros and create more than 150,000 jobs.

The economies of the city and the country will be stimulated by improved public transport, attractive new sports facilities and a variety of other valuable public amenities, claims a government report, adding that, "As the world's most forward-thinking city, Tokyo looks to deliver spectacular yet sustainable Games that are fully integrated with the city, its people and their future."

Former Governor Ishihara also dismissed concerns that the residents - and taxpayers - of the city are less than enthusiastic at the prospect of hosting the Games, saying at a press conference in late June that plenty of other people from around Japan will travel to Tokyo to be involved.

'Compact' Games

Organizers of the Tokyo bid are confident their proposal for a "compact" Olympics Games, with the majority of the facilities within an 8-km radius, as well as the extensive use of existing venues instead of the need to construct entirely new ones will be in its favor when a decision is made.

Forty percent of the venues will be fully renovated existing structures and will include the Budokan Hall and the Tokyo Big Site convention center, while Tokyo has also promised to hold many of the events in the earthquake and tsunami-damaged northeast of Japan.

Early suggestions for the Tohoku region include having the torch relay on part of the coastline that was devastated by the tsunami, while the football competition is also a likely contender for the region.

Sir Craig Reedie, the head of the IOC Evaluation Commission, will arrive in Tokyo on March 4 to carry out his four-day assessment of the city's bid.

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