March 4 - There should be no safety concerns about holding the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo the team of inspectors, headed by Britain's Sir Craig Reedie, were assured today as they started assessing the Japanese capital's bid.
Tsunekazu Takeda (pictured top), President of Tokyo 2020, offered the reassurance as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission begun its four-day visit.
Last week a powerful earthquake shook Tokyo, wobbling high-rise buildings in the capital for 30 seconds.
The epicentre of the magnitude 6.2 quake was near the mountain resort town of Nikko, about 130 kilometres north of here.
"Some people are concerned about earthquakes in Tokyo," Takeda, who is also President of the Japanese Olympic Committee, in an interview published today in Yomirui Shimbu.
"We will tell them Japan's building codes are some of the strictest in the world.
"Buildings in Tokyo would not collapse even if an earthquake of the same magnitude as the March 2011 quake struck Tokyo."
The massive Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which hit the country on March 11, 2011, killed nearly 20,000 people.
"In the event of a powerful tsunami, stimulations have shown that Tokyo Bay's narrow mouth and wide interior would buffer the wave," said Takeda.
"When the tsunami reaches Tokyo, it would be about three metres high, which is a size we can confidently deal with."
The Tōhoku earthquake devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering meltdowns, spewing radiation and forcing about 160,000 people to flee from their homes.
But radiation is no longer a concern, claimed Takeda.
"Radiation levels in Tokyo are now much lower than global standards and lower than many other cities overseas," he said.
"Also, studies have shown that Tokyo's radiation levels are lower than the exposure a person would get on a flight from Tokyo to New York."
The 15-member Commission - minus Christophe Dubi, the IOC's sports department director who is missing this trip - were greeted this morning at the Palace Hotel by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose, a clear sign of how much importance the country is attaching to bringing the Games back here for the first time since 1964.
"Every journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step," Inose told them.
"We understand that this week is the first major step with you of a journey we wish to take towards the successful delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Personally, I know that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
"And I know about the marathon as last year I completed my first - at the age of 65.
"I started jogging 300 metres around my house, one year before the race.
"Every day, I practiced and words cannot express the satisfaction when I achieved my goal.
"So, I know how sport can give people strength, courage and hope, how it can lead us forward on a positive path, and also unite us as people to produce a better society.
"I wish to help promote and share those benefits and the joy of sports with the people of Tokyo and Japan and of all countries, through hosting the Games of 2020, which is why from now on I will be working every day, taking the steps to win this marathon."
The charismatic Governor, only elected last December, then treated the Commission members to watching him have a game of tennis at the Ariake Tennis Park against Shingo Kunieda, winner of the gold medal in wheelchair tennis at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and who once went 106 consecutive matches undefeated.
Earlier, the 2011 FIFA Women's Player of the Year Homare Sawa had addressed the Commission.
During a hectic day the Comission also visited Harumi Triton Square where, from the 39th floor, they were given an overview of Tokyo's plans if they are awarded the Games, including the Olympic Village.
Sir Craig also led IOC members France's Guy Drut, Namibia's Frank Fredericks, Thailand's Nat Indrapana, Germany's Claudia Bokel, and Switzerland's Patrick Baumann, along with IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli, for an audience with Crown Prince Naruhito at his residence in the Akasaka Imperial estate.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
June 2012: Tokyo 2020 pledge commitment to sustainability as city feels effect of latest earthquake