The Olympics in Osaka?
Japan is preparing to host the Summer Olympics for the second time. Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964 and will do so again for the 2020 Olympics. Hosting the Summer Olympics twice is an honor which has only been given to the cities of Paris (1900 and 1924), London (1948 and 2012), Los Angeles (1932 and 1984) and Athens (1896 and 2004). If you count the Winter Olympics, Japan has hosted the Olympic games three times already; Tokyo (1964), Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).
Osaka made a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, along with Paris (France), Istanbul (Turkey), Toronto (Canada) and Beijing (China). Beijing won the bid to host the games for 2008, but Osaka had some interesting plans for the games.
While the country was still preparing for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Osaka began it’s campaign for the Olympics. In 1996 Osaka schools started collecting children’s essays and art on the theme of the Olympics and sending child ambassadors to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to promote Osaka.
Osaka already had a number of large facilities to host sporting events and gathering but to host the Olympics there were plans for a few new venues to be constructed; such as an Olympic Village (on Yumejima island), Olympic Stadium (on Maishima island) and a new center for wrestling and judo.
Here you can see a Google Map detailing the proposed locations of various events. Most of the events are within 20 kilometers of the Olympic village with the most distant venues being the Lake Biwa rowing location, which is about 70 kilometers to the north, and the Misaki mountain-biking course, which is about 70 kilometers to the south. If you are in Osaka you can still use this map as a guide to finding excellent sports facilities:
Osaka’s Olympic bid was rejected in 2001 but you can still see some “Osaka 2008” promotional stickers on shop shutters, 16 years later. Those shops were another point in Osaka’s Olympic plans; there was a proposed “one shotengai per country campaign” in which the many “shotengai” (shopping streets) in Japan would each represent a different country. This was aimed at revitalizing the aging shopping streets, internationalizing the local communities and generating enthusiasm for the Olympics with Osakans. During the Olympics, Japanese media and audiences are extremely focused on the Japanese athletes and the attention goes into the events in which Japanese athletes are expected to do well (such as judo). Given this strong Japan-first focus it may have been difficult trying to get entire streets of small local businesses behind foreigner promotional themes.
You can look for the Olympic candidate promotional signs, with the five-color Olympic rings reshaped into a cherry blossom emblem, but those signs and stickers are now extremely rare.
The main reason cited for rejecting Osaka as an Olympic host was the fact that the Nagano Olympics had been too recent, only ten years before. Another concern was the transportation system, with crowded trains, narrow streets and concerns for foreigners who were trying to navigate in a system designed with the Japanese language.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave Osaka the following scores (out of 10)
Transportation Infrastructure 7.40
General Infrastructure 7.55
Sports Infrastructure 7.00
Olympic Village 7.00