Five years before 2020 Games, Tokyo pledges to beat woes, succeed

Fri Jul 24, 2015 7:39am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Exactly five years before the 2020 Summer Olympics open, hundreds gathered in a downtown Tokyo plaza on Friday to wave flags and cheer as organisers pledged to overcome a long string of troubles and make the Games a resounding success.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's surprise decision last week to take plans for the centerpiece New National Stadium "back to zero" in the face of growing outrage over ballooning costs was the latest in a string of broken promises related to the Games, which Tokyo won two years ago based largely on its organizational prowess and reputation for efficiency.

The stadium decision, which also left the 2019 rugby World cup without venues for some of its most important matches, risks damaging Japan in the eyes of the sporting world and could cost it future sporting events.

But organisers put this behind them on Friday, telling hundreds packed into a square before the futuristic Tokyo government building, lit with the Olympic colors, that everything could be overcome.

"There have been many problems up to now, including the stadium, and there will no doubt be more," said Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe as people waved Olympic flags and fanned themselves in evening air turned muggy by an afternoon storm, waiting for the new Olympic emblem to be unveiled.

"But I firmly believe that if we work together we will be able to overcome everything".

The stadium is set to host track and field events as well as the opening ceremony on July 24, 2020. Officials have said that the original design for the stadium, by U.K.-based Zaha Hadid, helped them win the games in 2013.

However, with the estimated cost climbing to $2.1 billion, almost twice than expected, and a futuristic design derided as a bicycle helmet or a drooping raw oyster, there has been a backlash in a country still rebuilding from the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 20,000 dead.   Continued...

Yoshiro Mori (2nd R), Japan's former Prime Minister and president of the Tokyo 2020, and Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe (5th R) and athletes pose for a photograph during an unveiling event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games emblems at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo July 24, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato