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Tokyo`s new PM urged to push Olympic bid

Last Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 20:14

Tokyo: Tokyo`s Olympic bid organizers have urged new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to join them in Copenhagen for the International Olympic Committee`s vote on the host city for the 2016 Summer Games.
The Tokyo team said Thursday that 13 Japanese sporting greats, many of them former Olympic medalists, will join them for the trip to Denmark`s capital, where the vote will be held on Oct. 2.

"We have been making efforts on the assumption that Prime Minister Hatoyama will join us. We would request that he comes," said Ichiro Kono, chair of the Tokyo bid team. "We realize he is busy right after taking office, but we need him on our team."

Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid are the other cities in the running for 2016.

Hatoyama took office on Wednesday, and his office had not commented on whether he would make the trip.

In recent years, national leaders have traveled to the IOC meetings to promote their bids, and had met with success. British Prime Minister Tony Blair lobbied for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and Vladimir Putin for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Spanish King Juan Carlos have said they will go to Copenhagen for the vote.

President Barack Obama will not attend the meeting, instead sending first lady Michelle Obama to lead the US delegation. But he has been a vocal supporter of the bid for the city where he retains a home and lived much of his life. He held a rally at the White House on Wednesday and videotaped four messages for various international Olympic committees.

Seeking to drum up support for their bid, the Tokyo organizers are bringing 13 Japanese athletes who have won 31 Olympic and Paralympic medals — including 11 golds between them — over the years.

Mikako Kotani, who won a bronze medalist in synchronized swimming at the 1988 Seoul Games, is a member of the Tokyo bid executive board.

"We`re like team Japan," she said. "We`ll go proudly and make our appeal for Tokyo to the IOC."

Rio`s bid appeared to gain traction this month when the Brazilian city came off best in a technical evaluation of the four cities by the IOC`s evaluation commission. However, the report expressed some concern about public safety challenges.

Tokyo`s bid was praised for its compact venue plan and government financial backing, but was cited for its lack of public support. Only about 55 percent of Tokyo residents supported the bid in an IOC poll in February.

The report, which did not rank or grade cities, is intended only as a guide for IOC`s 100-plus members and is unlikely to sway the final decision.

Last week, IOC President Jacques Rogge said he saw no favorites and expected a close vote.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 20:14

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