Doing Tokyo’s Bidding

Inspectors from the International Olympic Committee visited Tokyo April 16-19 to evaluate the city’s bid for the 2016 summer games.

Both Prime Minister Taro Aso, a former Olympic athlete himself, and 76-year-old Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who has made the Olympics a kind of personal crusade to cap his political career, met the 13-member team on the first day of their visit.

The inspection included a virtual-reality presentation.

While visiting the landfill area that will become the main site of the Olympic village, team members were given headsets that allowed them to see in 360 degrees what the area would look like once construction was completed.

Ishihara’s main idea is to keep all the facilities and venues within an 8-kilometer radius of the village, with 70 percent of the venues located no more than 10 minutes from the village by car.

Some of the venues built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics will be used for 2016 if the bid is successful.

Ishihara stressed the “ecological” component of Tokyo’s plans, a consideration that the inspection team downplayed.

“An environment theme is as important as all other themes,” said Chairwoman Nawai El Moutawakel.

About 40 protesters chanted their opposition to the games from behind a fence while the team was given the virtual tour.

Some Tokyoites say that Ishihara is using the Olympics as an excuse to spend taxpayer money on big construction projects rejected by voters in the past.

The city has already spent billions just on the bid process.

The central government of Japan has given assurance that it will guarantee the financial costs of the games if the city cannot do so by itself.

The team has already inspected Chicago and has yet to visit Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

They will submit their reports Sept. 2 and the winning city will be announced Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.