Japan vows stand-out Games, eyes record haul
TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, front row second left, acknowledges cheers after pulling a rope to open a decorated paper ball celebrating Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics during a special event at the Tokyo Municipal Government main office in Tokyo Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. AP PhotoJapan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Tuesday to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics an exceptional event for the world's top athletes, as his government eyes a haul of 30 golds.
Ministers are preparing to set up an agency to boost resources for Japanese athletes, aiming to nearly double the previous gold total, reports and officials said.
"As the host country Japan must take it upon itself to help the top athletes from around the world perform their best," Abe told a special cabinet meeting on the Olympic preparations.
The premier pitched for Tokyo's bid when the International Olympic Committee met in Buenos Aires on Saturday and chose the Japanese capital over Madrid and Istanbul as the 2020 Olympic host.
"It (Tokyo 2020) will also be a golden opportunity for Japan to show the world how it has recovered from the Great East Japan Earthquake," he added, referring to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and sparked meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The Yomiuri Shimbun and other media reported Tuesday that the projected sports agency will be overseen by a cabinet minister who will also be tasked with ensuring the smooth delivery of Tokyo 2020.
A senior government spokesman said the education and science ministry, charged with sports administration, has requested a budget allocation for the next year to "launch an organisation to integrate policies regarding sports".
The government is considering having education minister Hakubun Shimomura also serve as the minister in charge of the Olympics, the Yomiuri and the Sankei newspapers said.
Japan has set a target of 25 to 30 gold medals at the 2020 Games, against its previous best of 16 that it collected when it last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964 and at the 2004 Athens Games, an education ministry official told AFP.
At last year's London Games, Japan won seven golds, finishing 11th in the medals table.
"We have made a budget request for 1.5 billion yen ($15 million) for next fiscal year for projects to train top athletes aged between 16 and 20," the official said.
Home advantage often helps push host nations up the medal table.
At last year's London Olympics, Britain glittered with 29 gold medals, placing it third, up 10 from the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2004, they picked up just nine.
Also on Tuesday, thousands of fans gathered outside the Tokyo metropolitan government building to welcome home members of the Tokyo bid team from the IOC meeting.
"We could hear your cheers in Buenos Aires," Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose told the crowd.
Tokyo has touted itself as a "safe pair of hands" with financial health and established infrastructure while Madrid's bid was marred by Spain's recession-hit economy and Istanbul was faced with anti-government protests and a bloody civil war in neighbouring Syria.