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Abe Says Fukushima Will Be Resolved Before 2020 Olympics

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, center, speaks during a joint meeting by Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and Nuclear Power Disaster Management Council at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Sept. 3, 2013. Photographer: Shizuo Kambayashi/AFP/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will tell the International Olympic Committee that leaks of radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will pose no problem in hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Abe was speaking to reporters as he left for the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg, which he will leave early to make a final presentation to the IOC in Buenos Aires before it picks the 2020 host city on Sept. 7. Tokyo is the odds-on favorite to win against bids from Istanbul and Madrid, according to online gambling data website

Tokyo’s bid committee has said hosting the Games in the Japanese capital would help the country throw off the gloom of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Last month a new crisis broke out over contaminated water leaking from the plant and the government said this week it would spend 47 billion yen ($472 million) on fixing the leaks, including freezing soil around the reactors.

“There have been some expressions of concern over the leak of polluted water at Fukushima, but the government will take a lead in achieving a complete resolution of this problem,” Abe told reporters at his official residence. “I will explain carefully that we are doing our utmost with a firm resolve and that in 2020, seven years from now, there will be absolutely no problem.”

Tokyo’s opening press conference today in Buenos Aires was dominated by questions about Fukushima.

“The radiation level in Tokyo is the same as London, New York and Paris,” Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, told reporters. “It’s absolutely safe, 35 million people living there in very normal conditions. We have no worries.”

Takeda is the only Japanese official among the IOC’s 103-person membership who decide where the Olympics are held.

Japan last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, an event that was seen as marking its emergence from the aftermath of World War II. A poll published by the Yomiuri newspaper on Feb. 25 found 83 percent support for the 2020 bid nationwide, compared with 72 percent the previous year. The most popular reason cited was hopes of an economic boost from the Olympics.

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