Quake fears are not a factor, says Tokyo bid chief

Tue Jan 8, 2013 5:53am EST
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By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Concerns that a major earthquake could strike during the 2020 Olympics will not affect Tokyo's chances of hosting the Games, the city's bid leader said on Tuesday.

Tokyo tiptoed into the bidding race after losing out to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and with the country still recovering from a deadly tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in 2011.

"You can't predict with any certainty where and when earthquakes will hit," Tokyo's bid president Tsunekazu Takeda told reporters.

"They can potentially happen in any country. It's the reaction to the quake which is the most important thing and to be ready as a nation if that occurs."

Tokyo, which hosted Asia's first Olympics in 1964, is the favorite with British bookmaker William Hill to beat rivals Istanbul and Madrid, offering odds of 4/6. Istanbul are 5/2 and Madrid 3/1.

Despite Tokyo's economic strength and strong infrastructure, Takeda faced questions over whether the city could withstand another major earthquake.

A 9.0-magnitude quake in March 2011 triggered tsunami waves of up to 40 meters, killing more than 15,000 people in northeast Japan and causing a meltdown at a nuclear plant north of Tokyo.

"In Japan, the procedures for dealing with disasters and architectural guidelines are very stringent," said Takeda. "In the 2011 disaster there were no casualties in Tokyo.   Continued...

The Tokyo Stadium, one of the proposed Olympic stadiums for the 2020 Summer Olympic games, is seen in this computer-generated file handout image provided by the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee, and released January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Tokyo 2020 Bid Commitee/Handout