Japan Monday marked three years before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with celebrations and fanfare — even as organisers struggle to contain soaring costs and restore credibility.
Japanese celebrities and athletes dressed in bright kimonos gathered for the launch of a remake of a popular 1964 Tokyo Olympics song, as organisers promised to turn the 2020 Games into the biggest “natsu matsuri” (summer festival) ever.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, clad in a white traditional Japanese “happi” coat, attended a flag ceremony at city hall
“We have only three years left,” Koike said at the evening event at which cutting-edge projection mapping illustrating Tokyo was shown.
“I hope to lead the Olympics to success with all of you,” she told the audience.
The International Olympic Committee, fearful that ballooning budgets could see future Olympic bids dry up, last month praised local organisers for slashing costs.
Koike last year ordered a review of the budget which 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.
Tokyo organisers have since slashed costs to around $13 billion but have otherwise largely failed to inspire confidence since the city beat Madrid and Istanbul in its bid to host the Games for a second time.
Progress on the financial front comes after a rocky start when the initial rollout of the centrepiece Olympic stadium was bungled, forcing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015 to tear up the blueprints amid public anger over its price tag. A new and cheaper plan was unveiled later that year.
More embarrassment followed when the original Games logo was scrapped following allegations of plagiarism.
But the focus on Monday was on building up enthusiasm for Tokyo’s hosting of the Games.
Other events held across Japan included a 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) running and cycling relay from the northern prefecture of Aomori to Tokyo.
The route took in areas hit by the deadly 2011 tsunami and the event featured 2000 Sydney Olympics marathon champion Naoko Takahashi at the start.
A surfing exhibition by pros took place at the Tsurigasaki beach venue in Chiba — an hour outside Tokyo — where the sport will make its Olympic debut in 2020.