SPORTS

Tokyo governor vows 2020 Olympic Games will boost Japan's spirits and economy

09/10/2013 09:44 EDT | Updated 11/10/2013 05:12 EST
TOKYO - Tokyo's governor vowed the return of the Olympic Games in 2020 — nearly half a century after Tokyo's first games — will be a sports success and an economic boost to the nation.

Thousands of Tokyo residents crowded the plaza in front of City Hall to welcome home Gov. Naoki Inose and members of the bidding committee on Tuesday from the IOC vote in Argentina. Tokyo was chosen to host the games on Sunday, beating out Madrid and Istanbul.

Inose said the games will be a chance to make new history for the nation, coming after years of economic sputtering, the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and the ongoing nuclear crisis that disaster touched off.

"It's all ahead of us," Inose told the crowd. "Let's all pull together as a nation."

The prospect of hosting the Olympics lifted share prices in construction, real estate and tourism-related companies, boosting Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index by 2.2 per cent soon after trading began on Monday morning.

Concerns over the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, just northeast of Tokyo, almost derailed the Olympic bid. Tokyo has been in the running for seven years.

Containing radiation from the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima continues to be a major problem but the government and the power company that runs the plant insist there will be no health risks for the hordes of athletes and spectators expected to descend on Tokyo for the games.

The plant's operator in July acknowledged tons of contaminated underground water has been leaking to the Pacific for some time. Recent radioactive water leaks from storage tanks have added to fears the problem is out of hand, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at Sunday's IOC meeting the leaks are completely under control.

The 1964 Olympics were a milestone in Japan's post-World War II recovery. Japan rushed to build expressways and introduced its first high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains. The games won it worldwide recognition for its growing affluence and economic power.

This time around, hosting the games could yield positive economic effects of over 4 trillion yen ($40.4 billion) and create more than 150,000 jobs, according to some estimates, more than half of it new demand for construction, sales of Olympics-related goods and purchases of new televisions and other appliances.

The government also hopes to boost visits by foreign tourists to 30 million a year by then, from the 8.36 million who came to Japan last year, and officials say the preparations will help the greater Tokyo area — which is home to 35 million people — overhaul its aging infrastructure.

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