Is Tokyo Underselling Itself in its Bid for the 2020 Olympics?

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 1. ON September 7, 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will officially declare the host city for the 2020 Olympics, in a bid between Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. In March, an IOC inspection team will visit each of the bidding cities, no doubt to rousing fanfare and enticing displays of Olympic excitement.

But is the Japanese public unintentionally underselling its enthusiasm towards hosting the Games? Tokyo previously submitted a bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, but was toped by Rio de Janeiro, Brazil due to its half-hearted public support. In what can only be described as deja vu, Japanese opinion polls taken in 2012 showed that only 2/3 of the public was in favor of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Games.

This may not be the actual case. In a National Public Radio (NPR) segment, Masa Takaya, Communications Manager for the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), said that by Japanese culture, the public tends to shy away from expressing their full enthusiasm towards certain issues. “It's the national character,” he explained.

Fortunately for the JOC, the Japanese public is becoming less reticent. In an article released earlier this week by the JOC public support in Japan for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics has shown a continual increase, especially in the 20 and 30 age bracket, at 83% in favor.

“We know public support was a challenge for us last time, and so we are delighted by this very strong result. It is especially significant that a large number of our passionate supporters are young people, showing that the future is bright for the Olympic Movement in Japan,” Tsunekazu Takeda, IOC Member and President of both the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and Tokyo 2020, said.

Japan's catastrophic 2011 Earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear disaster may have added to some of the initial public unease. Members of the Tokyo City Council still criticize the bid, instead saying that Japan should continue to direct its energy towards disaster relief. Takaya is of the opposing opinion, stating that winning the bid would boost national pride.

“We need a something, a dream, a goal objective that everyone can share and pursue,” he said.

Japan is actually one of the most attractive options because of its financially stability in the global market. The JOC has already achieved nearly $4.5billion of the budget set aside for new infrastructure to support the Games. On the flip side, bid city Madrid has had to field questions regarding its ability to finance the Games in Spain's current financial crisis.

According to UK paper The Guardian, Tokyo hired British firm, Seven46, to develop the messages it will present to the IOC to win the 2020 Games. Seven46 worked previously with bid winners London and Rio de Janeiro.

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