Dan Palmer

Firstly, in the interests of good governance and full disclosure, I should confess that I am a bit biased about Japan.

To the shock of many who know me, in April of this year I convinced an actual human female to become my wife and we set off to the Land of the Rising Sun on honeymoon.

What followed was a whirlwind of good times and happiness. We visited at the right time of year for the sakura, Japan's famous cherry blossoms which are known the world over, and attended a festival dedicated to this magical sight in Hirosaki on the north of Honshu.

In Kyoto we immersed ourselves in the world of the geisha and wondered how Japan mixes glimpses of a space-age future with ancient art and temples so seamlessly. 

I became the latest fan of baseball side the Orix Buffaloes after taking in a game in Osaka and ate so much food I thought I would need to be airlifted onto the plane. Everything is tasty here, from the bargain basement places upwards, and they even do a fairly decent craft beer.

I was left blown away when walking out onto a rooftop terrace to see the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji in full view, and when using the country's excellent train network there was not once the need for a dreaded rail replacement bus.

The Olympic Stadium will feature a wooden design ©Getty Images
The Olympic Stadium will feature a wooden design ©Getty Images

There was so much more besides, including, of course, Tokyo. The gargantuan capital had been top of my travel list for as long as I could remember and it did not disappoint with its dazzling neon lights and infectious energy. It all means I have a huge amount of affection for the next Summer Olympic host city.

Following my honeymoon I did not know when I would return to Japan but, like the famous London buses, I have ended up going twice in quick succession.

As desk editor of insidethegames I am not usually allowed out of the office but an exception was made for the Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly and, suddenly, I was back.

It allowed me the chance to take a look at several of the venues which will be used at Tokyo 2020 and to try and get a gauge of how things are going.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has raved that no city has been so far along in its preparations at this stage of the process, and there seems to be something of a buzz developing across the country.

On both of my visits I have noticed the Games logo and mascots plastered absolutely everywhere, and a huge Japanese press-pack always seems to be on hand at IOC events across the globe.

It was nice to see the Olympic Stadium again after I somehow convinced my wife in April that a trip to what is essentially a building site was a good honeymoon activity. Progress has been made since then, with the wooden design championed as part of Kengo Kuma's cheaper project visible towards the top of the venue.

The Olympic Cauldron will be placed here although the exact site of this has yet to be confirmed. Needless to say, it will be well clear of any wooden parts of the stadium.

It was also exciting to visit the artificial island of Odaiba where many venues will be located. The Aomi Urban Sports Park, which will stage the new sports of 3x3 basketball and sports climbing, currently just looks like a car park but at other locations you can really get a feel of what things will be like.

The Odaiba Marine Park, the home of triathlon and marathon swimming, looks set to be a stunning venue which will please television producers. A stretch of beach arches round the waters of Tokyo Bay with the city's highly-impressive Rainbow Bridge providing an exciting backdrop. Tokyo Tower peaks through skyscrapers on the other side and positive water quality test results have been claimed.

Lots of venues are in close proximity and the constant sight of local trains should mean that transportation will not be an issue.

The Odaiba Marine Park is in a stunning location ©ITG
The Odaiba Marine Park is in a stunning location ©ITG

Progress is clearly being made at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre and Tokyo Aquatics Centre, with the former's roof raised into position last month. The Sea Forest Waterway for canoe sprint and rowing is also in a convenient location after talk that the sports could be transported hundreds of miles away.

Satellite venues are never ideal but these are times when the entire sporting world is penny-pinching and this fate did befall track cycling and mountain bike, which will take place 120 kilometres to the south in Izu. Time will tell if there will be any "disconnect" felt by those attending the outpost but for the millions of television viewers across the world this will not be an issue.

Baseball and softball matches in Fukushima is also a nice touch after the natural disasters which devastated the region, but the six-team tournaments featuring on the sports' Olympic return has led to a confusing format which seems a shame.

At the Olympic Village, high-rise towers are climbing up in an agreeable fashion with views of the bay and skyline again impressive. Race walking around the grounds of the Imperial Palace Garden is another good idea while famous martial arts venue the Budokan should provide a fitting location for judo and karate.

It was a sunny day on my venue tour and it was easy to think that progress is currently in a state of serenity. Organisers, too, seem to be enjoying a period where the whiff of controversy is not particularly strong. 

Two high-profile scandals erupted in 2015 and enough time has passed to mean they no longer feature highly on the public radar.

One was the logo kerfuffle which saw the initial choice axed after plagiarism allegations, while there was the need for Kuma's new Olympic Stadium design after Prime Minister Shinzō Abe stepped in with costs starting to skyrocket. 

A sticking point could be the corruption allegations which are simmering away in the background but even these are yet to fully come to the surface.

Towers rise at the Olympic Village ©ITG
Towers rise at the Olympic Village ©ITG

Senegal's Papa Diack is accused of trying to influence the final vote for 2020, allegedly ensuring that African voters backed Tokyo rather than Madrid. 

It has been alleged that a payment was made from the Tokyo 2020 bid team to a Singapore-based Black Tidings bank account linked to Diack, and that this was made during Japan's successful campaign. 

Diack denies wrongdoing and the Senegalese Government has so far refused to extradite him to France to face charges, which has slowed down the process. With investigations supposedly continuing, time will tell if this issue becomes a greater concern. 

Another potential stumbling block is fears over the heat, after dozens died this summer following temperatures which exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. 

Events such as the marathon will start in the early morning while ideas such as heat-reducing pavements have been touted. If anyone can pull off innovative technology such as that, it is surely the Japanese.

It is true that there is plenty of time to go before the Games and many Olympics of yesteryear have seen their main scandals break with not much left on the clock.

Talking points could emerge from next week's IOC Coordination Commission visit here and when asked if the Games will be a success, the honest answer is that it is too early to tell.

But, if I can be biased again, I've got my fingers crossed they will be.