TOKYO – Thousands of Japanese who stayed up all night to witness the Olympic vote erupted in joy on news that Tokyo will host the 2020 Games, as athletes hailed the “dream” result and TV hosts broke down in tears.
Several channels broadcast live the 5:20 am Japan time announcement from Buenos Aires that the capital would host the Summer Games for a second time, with public broadcaster NHK having begun its programming nearly seven hours before the decision was revealed.
“It is like a dream that Tokyo will host the Olympics,” four time Olympic swimming champion Kosuke Kitajima told NHK. “I hope the event will give children a chance to dream.”
As Olympic chief Jacques Rogge read the IOC decision, cheers and shouts rang out. Groups of ecstatic Japanese hugged each other and punched the air.
TV hosts and their guests were temporarily speechless and several were in tears, with some making reference to people living in the area affected by the earthquake-tsunami and the nuclear emergency it caused in March 2011.
At the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where around 1,200 people had gathered to watch live-streaming of the announcement in Buenos Aires, people held V signs aloft and cheerleaders hugged each other.
At the MC’s prompting, the crowd shouted “Banzai!” (hurrah!) three times and said “arigato” (thank you) to Buenos Aires.
At Komazawa Olympic Park in the south of Tokyo, which served as a venue for several sports at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, golden tinsel rained down at the moment of decision.
A boisterous crowd held signs and chanted “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo,” as an interviewer fought to be heard above the din.
When he finally got his question out — “What do you think of the news?” — one man shouted: “It’s the best!” before being drowned out by chanting and cheering.
Three-time Olympic women’s 55kg wrestling champion Saori Yoshida, whose sport may be scrapped from the 2020 Games said she had been brought to tears by the news of Tokyo’s victory.
“I am really pleased that Japan pulled together,” she told reporters.
Tadashi Okamura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was in the crowd said he had not stopped crying with joy.
“We wanted the Games so much,” he said.
Businesses looked to capitalize with shopping malls hoisting signs in celebration and one bar owner offering free beer to every customer.
A middle-aged woman in Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami two years’ ago, told NHK “I’m happy because it gives me hope.”
But some were skeptical the Olympics would benefit the public good.
One man in Fukushima city told NHK: “I’m struggling with things today, rather than things in seven years time.”
Japanese newspapers rushed out special editions featuring color photographs of the moment Rogge revealed the card with the word “Tokyo” printed on it, but the mood was much more sober in Madrid when the city was eliminated at the first stage of the vote.
Supporters who had gathered in the city let go of the red balloons they had been hopefully clutching and wound their way home.
“I am very disappointed,” said Jorge Linhares, 41, a minister who had come to witness the decision. “Everyone was very hopeful and I am surprised,” he added. “I thought we would go to the second round and win.”
Tokyo’s victory was also a huge disappointment to the hundreds of Turks who had gathered in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Within minutes of the announcement, the podium and the forum were almost deserted.
But the city’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, was magnanimous.
“Today we showed that we were a serious candidate, so I do not believe that we have lost,” he said. “We are a people who love competition, we will continue to try.”