BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AFP) — Tokyo yesterday won the right to host the Olympic Games for the second time, overcoming fears about radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant to land the 2020 edition of the world's biggest sporting event.
Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires chose the Japanese capital, which previously hosted the Games in 1964, over Istanbul, after Madrid was dramatically eliminated following a first-round tie with the Turkish city.
Thousands of Japanese who gathered in Tokyo in the early hours of Sunday erupted in joy, making V for victory signs and shouting "banzai!" (hurrah!) as the result was beamed live from the Argentine capital nearly a dozen time zones away.
At the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, crowds shouted "arigato!" (thank you!) in unison, several television hosts and their guests were lost for words and in tears, while at the Komozawa Olympic Park -- venue of several sports at the 1964 Games -- golden tinsel rained down in celebration.
"I have been waiting a long time for this feeling," bid chief Tsunekazu Takeda said in Buenos Aires. "The members of the IOC have seen that Tokyo is a safe pair of hands."
Tokyo city governor Naoki Inose added that the Olympics would help Japan recover from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that claimed more than 18,000 lives and vowed no let up to create what he said would be "the best Games ever".
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier flown to South America from the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, to reassure nervous members about the safety of the nuclear plant some 220 kilometres (140 miles) from Tokyo amid fears about the leaking of contaminated water.
He told delegates that the situation was "under control", adding: "It has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo."
Fukushima operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co, also played down fears of a possible spread of radiation in a separate message.
Concerns over Fukushima -- seriously damaged by the quake and giant waves two-and-a-half years ago -- had dogged the bid in the final days, but Abe successfully allayed IOC members' fears.
The final result was 60 votes for Tokyo against 36 for Istanbul.
Tokyo — third in the vote for the 2016 Games won by Rio de Janeiro — had been the front-runners originally, as they promised a safe and financially secure Games in what they termed "uncertain times".
The decision means it will be the fourth time that Japan plays host to the Olympics, having also organised winter Games in Nagano (1998) and Sapporo (1972).
Asia will see successive Olympics as the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang is hosting the 2018 winter edition.