Record Japan Olympic haul is a boost for 2020 – Tokyo boss

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 26, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Japan’s record medal
haul at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will give the country a lift as it
prepares to host the 2020 Games, Tokyo’s top organiser told AFP.

Japanese athletes collected 13 medals, four of them gold, in their best-
ever Winter Games performance, Tokyo 2020’s chief executive officer noted,
providing a welcome fillip as the city pushes ahead with preparations.

“Japanese athletes have done splendidly, winning more winter medals than
ever before,” Toshiro Muto said in an interview in Pyeongchang.

“Breaking that record will give the Tokyo Olympics a boost,” he added.

“At Tokyo 2020 we expect to win even more medals hopefully so it will be
important in the time left to work hard in the development of top athletes.”

As the Olympic torch passes from Pyeongchang to Tokyo, Japanese organisers
will be under increased pressure to complete venues and meet budgetary
targets following a series of public relations disasters.

Muto insisted 2020 organisers had learnt much from the Winter Games, not
least in how Pyeongchang dealt with an outbreak of norovirus that struck more
than 200 people — mostly security staff.

“In terms of Games management this was our last chance to observe on
site,” he said.

“The cases of norovirus were a surprise to us, and I’m sure to South
Koreans, but it was a valuable lesson for us in how to deal with unexpected
emergencies.

“The Korean organisers moved quickly and worked with the country’s
government to arrange quarantine measures,” he added. “Tokyo will also need
to be able to act swiftly and flexibly.”

– Hot topic –

Muto also noted that South Korean volunteers, many of whom reportedly quit
in the build-up to the Olympics over the cold and low standard accommodation,
“weren’t exactly burning with energy”.

Tokyo organisers have faced criticism in their Games build-up, most
notably after a disastrous rollout of plans for the 2020 Olympic stadium.

They remain prickly, however, on the subject of Tokyo’s summer heat.

“The athletes have said Pyeongchang was far colder than they had
expected,” said Muto.

“A bit like dealing with the cold here, coping with the heat is an
important issue for us in Tokyo. We are mindful that athletes, volunteers,
staff and fans all need to be cared for.”

Muto declined to discuss details, claiming “athletes are used to competing
in hot weather” before denying that Tokyo’s summers were actually all that
hot — despite temperatures in the capital regularly topping 35c (95F).

Japanese Olympic officials were embarrassed, meanwhile, after short track
speed skater Kei Saito failed a drugs test in Pyeongchang, dealing a blow to
the country’s squeaky clean image.

Having pledged a doping-free Games, Tokyo organisers were also left
squirming.

“Doping is absolutely wrong,” said Muto. “Japan is viewed as an extremely
clean country in terms of doping so if (Saito) is found to have doped, then
it is extremely regrettable.

“Dealing correctly with doping is important and we must make efforts to
ensure that Japanese athletes and the Tokyo Olympics as a whole are clean.”