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TOKYO – The news that Tokyo had been chosen to host the 2020 Olympic Games came through from Buenos Aries at 5.20 a.m. Sunday morning local time, just after the sun rose over the Japanese capital, as local media carried images of revelers celebrating around the city.
Public broadcaster NHK ran all-night coverage of the IOC proceedings in Argentina, interspersed with interviews of Japanese Olympic medalists, beginning late Saturday evening and continuing after Tokyo’s victory was announced into the late morning.
Most commercial broadcasters began their coverage in the early hours of the morning, covering the decision announcement live. Every channel carried interviews with Japanese athletes or spectators who’d been at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when the city became the first Asian host of the Games.
Big crowds were shown cheering at the Komozawa Olympic Park in Tokyo, the venue for gymnastics at the 1964 Games, with tinsel raining down from the roof as the news broke.
Enthusiasm for Tokyo’s bid had been somewhat subdued in the early stages of the bid, but after London 2012, where Japan scored its highest ever medal tally, and attracted bumper viewer figures, the mood began to change. Around half a million people welcomed Japan’s athletes home in a victory parade in Tokyo last summer.
Thousands had gathered at venues across the city on Sunday, some who had stayed up through the night, and others who rose before dawn to hear whether Tokyo would host the Games in 2020 after worries that the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant might have sunk the bid at the last minute.
The global media has been full of stories about leaks of radioactive water from the stricken nuclear facility in recent weeks, raising fears about the safety of Tokyo. At every presentation and press conference by the Tokyo campaign in the days leading up to the final decision, reporters had asked questions about the leaks and what threat they posed to the Japanese capital.
The Japanese authorities and the bid’s representatives in Buenos Aries stressed repeatedly that the radiation levels in Tokyo, which is more than 140 miles (230km) from the nuclear plant, are no higher than other major cities of the world. Nevertheless, there were concerns in Japan that the constant negative publicity had shifted the momentum toward Madrid in the final week of campaigning.
Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who led Japan through the March, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, tweeted “The Olympics will be held in Tokyo for the first time in 54 years!”
A wide range of Japanese industries will be banking on a boost from the build-up and hosting off the Games, and some had already taken to social media on Sunday morning to link themselves to the feel-good factor, including the makers of a traditional Japanese undergarment.
The Japan Fundoshi Association (JFA) promotes the wearing of the fundoshi — a type of cotton loin cloth that leaves the buttocks exposed, similar to those worn by sumo wrestlers — which fell out of favor with the introduction of western-style underwear in the second half of the last century.
“People from all over the world will come to Japan for the Olympics; this is a chance to show the appeal of fundoshi. That time should also see fundoshi spread in Japan. The JFA will endeavor to have fundoshi made with the five rings Olympic mark on them. Nice fundoshi!,” tweeted the JFA.
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