TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo marked 1,000 days until the 2020 Olympics on Saturday with a ceremony that included a demonstration of new sports that will debut at the Summer Games.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa were among the dignitaries attending the festivities in the Nihonbashi district in downtown Tokyo.
“The Olympic Games has the power to bring dreams to children and cultivate a peaceful society,” said Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee. “The success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is necessary so that sport can contribute to foster a better society and world peace.”
Four floats numbered 1-0-0-0 were carried through the streets to a main stage where a countdown display was unveiled. Organizers said 15,000 people attended Saturday’s event.
In an effort to give the games a more youthful and urban appeal, the IOC has added several new sports to the program.
Saturday’s event included demonstrations of three of those sports: 3×3 basketball, skateboarding and BMX freestyle cycling.
Sports climbing, surfing, baseball and softball, and karate are the other new sports added to the program. Karate and the combined sports of baseball and softball were added because of their popularity in Japan.
Tokyo’s preparations so far have won high praise from the International Olympic Committee.
“Of course there are still a lot of things that need to be done over the next three years and we must achieve them successfully,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
While Tokyo organizers are eager to showcase their progress, the preparations have not been without difficulties.
In a bid to reduce costs, some sports venues originally included in Tokyo’s compact bid, have been moved to existing facilities in neighboring prefectures, some as far as two hours away by train.
The IOC is calling for further cuts of $1 billion from a $12 billion budget.
Meanwhile, the building of the new national stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field, has been plagued by a series of problems and delays. The initial design by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid had risen to $2.65 billion, more than twice the original forecast. The Japanese government decided to scrap that plan and approved a new project totaling nearly $1.5 billion. Officials say construction will be completed by November 2019.
More recently, a water quality survey during the summer at the triathlon venue in Tokyo Bay found E.coli at concentrations up to 21 times the levels permitted by the sport’s governing body, a surprise for a country known for cleanliness. This raised concerns among athletes but organizers insist the water will be clean and safe. •
By JIM ARMSTRONG, AP Sports Writer