The Governor of Tokyo has a grand vision for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – he wants them to be the best ever and the Japanese capital to become the number-one city in the world. Governor Yoichi Masuzoe told an audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an independent policy institute based in London, that the first thing he did after his arrival in the city was to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and he was impressed to see that the facilities were being fully utilized after the highly-successful 2012 Games. The Governor said he enjoyed a talk in the park with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, “This was the first time for us to meet, and we got along very well. Maybe we have a lot in common, except in our hairstyles…”

Governor Masuzoe referred to a survey in The Economist of the best cities in the world in which to live. London ranked as the second city in the world following New York. A Japanese think tank, Mori Memorial Foundation, announced its Global Power City Index recently in which London ranked top and Tokyo was fourth. He said Tokyo wished to learn how London was able to continue developing after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. “I said to Boris, I will be at London. Sorry about that. That’s the reason for my visit.”

Looking ahead to the Tokyo Games he said it was important to ensure that they left a tangible legacy for future generations to follow. Work was underway for the completion of venues across the country linked by new road and rail services. The aim was to make Tokyo a people-friendly city. This would be accomplished not just by building facilities but by people lending a helping hand to those in need. He acknowledged that Japan needed to deal with the language barrier because multilingual capabilities would be essential for welcoming international visitors in the run-up to the Games. He said multi-language signs would be introduced on public transport and in public spaces to create an environment where visitors could move around freely and in comfort.

The Governor also outlined plans to encourage more aggressive energy-saving policies, including the use of hydrogen, to build a greener environment to mitigate global warming. He said, “At the 2020 Games we hope to attract attention to the advent of a hydrogen society by providing visitors with a fleet of vehicles running on hydrogen.” He said initiatives to reduce energy consumption were crucial – one of these was to move towards de-motorization. “I understand that here [in London] the use of bikes increased after the 2012 Games, the so-called Boris bikes. Tokyo would also create a better environment for bicycle use and promote bicycle sharing.”

The Governor said he was pleased to note the popularity of Japanese food in London. He said he wished to dispel the myth that food was expensive in Japan. He said one could get a good meal for the equivalent of £2 in Tokyo. He also encouraged visitors to enjoy the shopping in Tokyo, in Ginza, and elsewhere. He said Chinese visitors were flocking to the shopping centers in Tokyo and urged Londoners to visit and experience the opportunities for themselves. “It is one of the good achievements of my visit to Beijing. They buy many things in Ginza department houses and big shops, and they pay much money, and these shops pay much tax to me, and I can use this money to make our Games successful, right?”

Back in Japan not everyone shares the Governor’s vision and enthusiasm for the Games. There’s been particular criticism of the Olympic stadium which will be bigger and more expensive than any of its recent predecessors. Designed by the renowned British architect, Zaha Hadid, it will have an arching roof rising 70 meters into the air; the structure has been likened to a spaceship or a giant bicycle helmet. The cost is $1.7 billion, and the revised design is now only twice as big as London’s Olympic stadium.

The main complaints are over the cost of the stadium and its location in the middle of one of the greenest, most historic parts of the city – Meiji Jingu Gaien, whose name means “The outer garden of the Meiji Shrine.” More than 13,000 people signed a petition against the new stadium. Beijing’s hugely expensive 2008 “Bird’s Nest” may have become a tourist attraction, but is rarely used for anything else; one critic accused the authorities of leading Tokyo down the same path that Beijing took in 2008.

Undeterred by the protests, the Governor declared that the Tokyo Games would be a festival not just for sport but also culture. A variety of cultural programs would be staged in different venues. London would be the role model in preparing for the Games. The Governor said sports had the power to change the world and the future. He said the 2012 Games had changed London significantly; Tokyo would also change after 2020. He ended by restating his vision that in six years Tokyo would beat London and become the leading city in the world.

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