Japan marked three years before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Monday with celebration and fanfare — even as organisers struggle to contain soaring costs and restore credibility.
Japanese celebrities and athletes dressed in bright kimonos gathered at the launch of a remake of a popular 1964 Tokyo Olympic song as organisers promised to turn the 2020 Games into the biggest “natsu matsuri” (summer festival) ever.
Other events were held across Japan, including a 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) run and cycling relay from northern Aomori prefecture to Tokyo, taking in areas hit by the deadly 2011 tsunami and featuring 2000 Sydney Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi at the start.
A surfing exhibition by pros also took place at the Tsurigasaki beach venue in Chiba — an hour outside Tokyo — where the sport will make its Olympic debut in 2020.
Japanese organisers however have plenty of work to do.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month praised local organisers for slashing costs, fearful that ballooning budgets could see future bids dry up.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike last year ordered a review of the budget that recommended revised plans to reduce costs projected to rise to more than $25 billion — four times the initial estimates when Tokyo won the 2020 hosting rights.
Local organisers have since slashed costs to around $13 billion but have otherwise largely failed to inspire confidence since Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul in the race to host the Games for a second time.
They bungled the rollout of the centrepiece Olympic stadium two years ago when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tore up the blueprints amid public anger over its price tag.
More embarrassment followed when the original Games logo was scrapped following allegations of plagiarism. – Agence France-Presse