tokyo

The main streets of Shin-Okubo — Tokyo’s Koreatown — are lined with smoky barbecue restaurants and overlit cosmetics emporiums. Staircases lead down to basement music venues and up to hidden drinking holes. Japanese once thronged the neighborhood, which is home to many ethnic Koreans and known for its fiery food and late nights. But in recent months, the crowds have thinned, replaced by anti-Korean protesters who have turned Shin-Okubo into a rough barometer of deteriorating Japan-Korea relations.

If Tokyo’s reaction to winning the 2020 Olympics, especially among the cash-strapped TV stations and other media types who rely on bread and circuses-type events to pay the bills, made you feel like Alice in Wonderland or a character in a Samuel Beckett play, you’re not alone. Well beyond the drawbridge of Old Edo, where the other roughly 90 percent of the country lives, the general feeling was a mixture of “Good for you” and “Don’t forget the victims of Tohoku and that problem in Fukushima. You know, the one you told the world was under control?”

Like the 1964 Olympics, the 2020 Summer Games are expected to have a positive impact not only economically but psychologically as well. They will also offer Japan the chance to set an example for the industrialized world, to demonstrate that despite its troubles — deflation, a rapidly aging population and scars from a triple disaster — it can still pull off the world’s biggest sports event.

For Yuki Ota, who won Olympic silver for fencing in Beijing in 2008 and again in London in 2012, Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Summer Games and Paralympics was like receiving his first gold medal.

It is Tokyo, after all. It was nearly 6am when a few thousand supporters gathered at Komazawa Stadium, one of the key venues for Tokyo’s 1964 games, exploded in celebration as International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge held up the winning envelope marked “Tokyo 2020." With Madrid ousted at the first round, the Tokyo-Istanbul competition boosted the hopes of the Japanese bidders that eventually took the final vote by a large margin: 60 to 36.

Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics wasn’t a sexy one. But the promise of efficiency, competence and high-tech wizardry was more than enough to convince members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who on Sept. 8 Tokyo time chose the Japanese capital over upstart Istanbul, which, had it won, would have been the first predominantly Muslim host city. (Madrid, the third contender, appeared to have been eliminated in a previous secret IOC vote.)

Most people there will discover the news when they wake up. But some 200 people, mostly those in the government who had worked to bring the games there but also sporting enthusiasts, stayed up together through the night waiting for the news, according the AFP. “As in every competition however, there can only be one winner,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at the voting site in Buenos Aires before opening a sealed envelope that named Tokyo as the host. Japanese committee members cried, hugged, and waved miniature flags in the hall.

The International Olympics Committee will hold a vote in Buenos Aires on Friday to decide the host of the 2020 Olympics. According to oddschecker.com, a site that gathers odds from Internet betting sites, Tokyo bests its competitors at 11-10 (meaning a successful bet of $10 will return $11 plus the original stake). Madrid follows at 11-4 and Istanbul 5-1.

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