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Abe says Tokyo 2020 will mark “new age” for Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe yesterday used an annual policy speech in Japan’s legislature to stage an impassioned endorsement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a defining moment for the country.

Abe compared Tokyo 2020 to the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which marked the country’s re-emergence onto the world stage following the devastation of World War Two. Reuters reported that he said this year’s Games will have a similar effect on a nation that has been written off after a long period of economic stagnation: “This will bring all the people of Japan together to walk forward together into a new age.”

Referring to 1964, he said: “The first-ever live broadcast of an Olympics. As the entire world watched, the final runner entered the National Stadium, Olympic torch in hand.

“It was a 19-year-old youth from Hiroshima, born on the day the atomic bomb fell, and his dynamic running showed that our nation had fully recovered from being flattened by bombings and, full of confidence and pride, proclaimed to the world Japan was embarking on an era of rapid growth.”

It was an unusual approach to the speech, which is usually a dry statement of government policy. Abe referenced the Olympics and Paralympics more than a dozen times during it.

The prime minister also hailed the upcoming Games contribution to recovery efforts from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The Olympic torch relay will begin in the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima, home of the nuclear power plant that was stricken by the tsunami.

“This place, which was the centre of operations for responding to Fukushima, is now becoming a soccer mecca for our nation, overflowing with children’s smiling faces,” he said.