3 Days Ahead of Vote, Olympics Bid Cities Fend Off Concerns

Updated: 09/04/2013 5:10 PM KSTP.com By: Heidi Enninga

Photo: MGN Online/Scazon
Photo: MGN Online/Scazon

Three days ahead of the vote to choose the host of the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo bid officials on Wednesday tried to fend off concerns about a leak of radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in northern Japan.
Bid leaders from Istanbul also faced hard questioning about a string of doping cases that have embarrassed Turkish officials.
Madrid held a news conference later, when questions were sure to surface about 27-percent unemployment in Spain and budget worries in one of Europe's largest economies.
All three cities present liabilities, and IOC members voting on Saturday may settle for the place with the fewest question marks. Tokyo is expected to be a slight favorite, but the race is considered too close to call.
Tokyo bid leader Tsunekazu Takeda said the water and food in Tokyo are as safe as they are in New York, Paris, London or Buenos Aires.
"The radiation level in Tokyo is the same as London, New York and Paris," said Takeda, an IOC member and president of the Japanese Olympic committee. "It's absolutely safe, 35 million people living there in very normal conditions. We have no worries."
Five of the seven questions for Takeda in a news conference dealt with the Fukushima leak.
Takeda answered all but one question in English, switching to Japanese near the end to add emphasis.
"Not one person has been affected by the radiation issue," he said through a translator. "Fukushima and Tokyo are 150 miles apart. Since we are quite remote you don't need to be concerned about this issue."
Tokyo calls its bid "a pair of safe hands," emphasizing Japanese technology and its ability to deliver on time. This could attract IOC members who are worried about delays in building venues for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Controversy has also surrounded the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Tokyo scored the highest in the IOC's technical report, but IOC members often vote along regional, political or friendship lines that have little to do with logistic or engineering appraisals.
Tokyo's presentation included a demonstration of the country's technology in robotics, featuring a robot named Mirata who simulated fencing with two-time Olympic silver-medalist Yuki Ota.
Turkish Olympic committee president Ugur Erdener faced repeated questions about doping. Several dozen Turkish athletes tested positive before the recent world athletics championships, setting off alarm bells.
Istanbul has also tried to explain away massive anti-government demonstrations in June, and a civil war and chemical attack in bordering Syria.
"Turkey now has a very aggressive anti-doping policy, and we have a well organized and totally independent national anti-doping agency," Erdener said. "Our policy is very clear: Zero-tolerance in doping. Of course we understand there is no gain without pain. As a result of our zero-tolerance policy, especially in the last five or six months, we have a number of cases and sanctions. ... We want a clean sport everywhere in our nation."
Erdener was also asked about air pollution in Istanbul.
"We don't have an air pollution problem now," he said.
He also said building venue and infrastructures for the games would not result "in any extra kind of taxes for our people."

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