Olympics: Fukushima no threat to Tokyo bid, says Takeda

PARIS - The leaking of toxic water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant will not affect Tokyo, the head of Tokyo's 2020 Olympic Games bid Tsunekazu Takeda told AFP.

The plant was badly damaged two years ago by the massive quake and tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people and last week Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) the plant operator admitted 300 tonnes of toxic water had leaked from one large tank - one of around 1,000 on the site - before anyone had noticed. The spill sparked fears the toxic water may have seeped into the ocean. It was categorised as a Level 3 event, the most serious category since the meltdown itself.

However, Takeda insisted despite the worrying news the leak would not affect either the bid - who will learn next Saturday in Buenos Aires whether they, Madrid or Istanbul will host the 2020 Summer Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members vote - nor the population of Tokyo itself. Takeda was speaking before news emerged of new radiation hotspots at four sites around Fukushima's coolant tanks, with one reading at 1,800 millisieverts per hour - a dose that would kill a human left exposed to it in four hours.

"There is no risk from Fukushima," said Takeda, speaking by phone from Buenos Aires in one of his final interviews before the vote.

"Day to day life in Tokyo carries on as normal for its 35 million people. "The air and water quality is safe. Also the data shows that the radiation level is the same as most cities, like Paris, London and New York.

"Our main focus is to deliver a great and safe Games"

Takeda, a show jump rider who competed in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics emulating his father Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda who rode at the 1936 Games, said by contrast winning the right to host the Games would give the country a huge morale boost.

"The tsunami happened hundreds of miles from Tokyo but the consequences were felt by people throughout the country," said Takeda, who is bidding to bring Tokyo their second Olympics having hosted them in 1964.

"The sports community has been at the heart of activity there since. It has shown how important the role athletes can play in society. "It would be a huge morale boost to the whole country were we to win the right to host the Olympics," added Takeda, who masterminded efforts to bring sports personalities to the stricken area.

Takeda, who is the great-grandson of Emperor Meiji ruler of Japan from 1867-1912, said that the final week of campaigning would be directed towards delivering a knockout final presentation.

"We will build up momentum to the final presentation next Saturday," said the 65-year-old.

"We will show that we are a life long partner for a lifetime movement (the IOC)."We will show it will be a celebration of sport and culture. Tokyo will be ready to start work on September 8."

While Takeda never won an Olympic medal he said victory next Saturday would be much better than that.

"Recent polls show that our bid enjoys 90 per cent popularity among the Japanese people," he said.

"Winning the vote would give 116million Japanese people a small taste of what it is like to win a gold medal.

"It would give them a feeling of what the feeling of celebration of winning an Olympic gold medal."