Tokyo reassures IOC over Fukushima fears, Madrid says economic crisis is ending

Tokyo reassures IOC over Fukushima fears, Madrid says economic crisis is ending

BUENOS AIRES - The Associated Press
Tokyo reassures IOC over Fukushima fears, Madrid says economic crisis is ending

People walk under the bid emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games hoisted in downtown Tokyo on Sept. 7. AFP photo

Istanbul's rivals for the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo and Madrid also made their final pitches ahead of a vote later in the day by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires.

Leading Tokyo's presentation, Japan's prime minister assured the IOC on Sept. 7 that the leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant is "under control" and will never affect Tokyo.

"Some may have concerns about Fukushima," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. "Let me assure you the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."

Abe returned to the issue later when Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg asked for more assurances.

"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.

Tokyo continued to portray itself as the safe choice at a time of global political and economic uncertainty.

"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.

Madrid offers 'no risk': Spanish PM

For his part, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the country's deep economic crisis has put Madrid in a great position to host a "risk-free" 2020 Olympic games.

Madrid, once counted out because of Spain's financial troubles, has generated the most recent buzz and momentum, and could be poised for an upset win.

Rajoy made his budget cuts a selling point in his final pitch to the IOC before the vote to select Madrid, Istanbul or Japan.

He says Spain is "on the road to recovery" with no inflation and growth already resuming after cutting public spending by more than any other leading economy. He also says that Spain's "organizational and financial capacities are unquestionable."

"Madrid offers a safe, solid and reliable bid," Rajoy said. "In fact, Madrid 2020 has perhaps the most reasonable and responsible financial foundation in recent Olympic history."

London bookmakers have been taking a rush of bets on Madrid, whose odds have been slashed from 4-1 a week ago to 5-4. Tokyo remains the betting favorite, though its odds have shortened to 5-6. Istanbul is listed at 6-1.

IOC elections are extremely unpredictable as members vote by secret ballot and take different personal reasons into account. Some members are still undecided and will be waiting for the final presentations before making up their mind.

With major risks surrounding each bid, the final presentations could help decide a tight race. Abe, Rajoy and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan all flew to Buenos Aires straight from the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.