By Duncan Mackay

Tokyo_earthquakeMarch 21 - Tokyo will not pursue its bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it has been claimed today.

Mario Pescante, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the leader of Rome's proposed bid for the 2020 Games, said that he had been told by Japan's Ambassador to Italy that they wanted to concentrate on rebuilding the shattered country following the devastation caused by the natural disasters earlier this month.

"Yesterday the Japanese Ambassador was with me at the start of the Rome Marathon and told me with great regret that his country could not continue with Tokyo's bid," Pescante told an Italian radio station.

Pescante had picked out Tokyo last month as potentially being Rome's closest challengers.

"If we had been beaten by Tokyo [following the earthquake] maybe we would have reasons to rejoice," he said.

"But they have other things to think about."

The World Bank estimated today that it could Japan five years to rebuild following the damage from the earthquake and the tsunami and it could cost as much as $235 billion (£144 billion).

Tokyo's bid depended anyway on whether Pyeongchang were awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics as it would have been unlikely that the IOC would have awarded consecutive Games to Asia.

In their absence, Pescante has picked out South Africa and Istanbul as Rome's most dangerous rivals.

South Africa has yet to officially commit itself to a bid but there is a growing belief that Durban could mount a serious challenge.

"There is great determination in Africa to put together a strong campaign," said Pescante.

He also fears Istanbul, who are preparing for their fifth bid.

"Turkey as a country is very strong and Istanbul is a very big candidate," said Pescante, who refused to accept that Rome were the early favourites.

"It is very early to pick favourites.

"The vote is still a long way off."

The IOC are due to pick the host city for 2020 at its Session in Buenos Aires in September 2013.

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