Bob Beamon

Tokyo 2020 support now 70 percent, up 23 from 47


TOKYO -- Headline: IOC survey shows local support for Tokyo 2020 now 70 percent, up 23 percent from 47 last year. The International Olympic Committee gave Tokyo 2020's bid a boost Tuesday with the release of those survey figures. At 47 percent, which was what the IOC measured in what was called the "Working Group Report" last May, Tokyo might as well have not bothered; the IOC likes to feel welcomed.

To be candid, 70 percent is still not rousing. But it's dramatic progress, indicative perhaps of the Japanese team's strong showing last summer at the London Games (38 medals overall). And it for sure puts Tokyo in the game; London's winning bid for 2012 only registered 68 percent support in London itself, according to the March, 2005, IOC evaluation report.

Tokyo's support nationally? 67 percent.  (London's support nationally in 2005? 70 percent.)

Tokyo also bid for the 2016 Games, won by Rio de Janeiro. At this point in the 2016 race, the Tokyo poll numbers: 56 percent support in Tokyo, 55 percent nationally.

Preliminary results for Madrid and Istanbul, the other two cities in the 2020 race, have not yet been made publicly available. The IOC will release the full results, methodology and timing in the Evaluation Commission's report, in July.

It's little wonder Tsunekazu Takeda, president of both Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese Olympic Committee as well as the lone IOC member here, said at a Tuesday evening news conference, "We are very happy to hear those numbers."

Real news -- like the release of such poll numbers -- is deliberately kept scarce in these commission visits.

Instead, the process is -- to repeat, by design -- a melange of sights and scenes.

The one question that everyone wants answered -- who is going to win? -- obviously is not susceptible to answer. No one can predict the IOC or the future.

Instead, at least for public consumption, this is mostly theater. Behind the stage, the commission is actually doing real work. But in front of the curtain, it is all carefully stage-managed. Six months ahead of the vote, which in this instance will be in Buenos Aires in September, the IOC drops into town for four days, giving the particular city a chance to promote its bid -- big-time -- in town and nationally. Such promotion can prove a key momentum-builder in a campaign.

What both sides, the bid city and IOC, want is a win-win. The bid city wants the local press to turn out in droves and to see the bid as serious and constructive. The IOC wants all bids to be seen as serious and constructive; that way, going forward, it encourages more bids from more cities, wherever they may be.

Here is a look around some of the sights and scenes in Tokyo, beginning with the proposed location of the Olympic Village:

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That big blue tower is an incinerator. It is said it would thoughtfully be turned off during the Olympics.

That blue mat-looking thing in the middle of the asphalt was a welcome sign for the members of the evaluation team. It was promptly stripped away as soon as they left. The white tent  -- which you can see, just behind the blue, in the middle of the photo, glinting in the sun? It was put there to keep the members of the commission warm and it similarly was taken down, pronto. By the time reporters were driven by, literally just a few minutes later, the poles were on the ground.

Next photo below: the proposed location of a whole bunch of venues, everything from volleyball to gymnastics to BMX cycling to wrestling (if wrestling makes its way back on the 2020 program, that is). Referring back again for a moment to the photo above of the proposed village, these venues would be located across the bridge that sits on the left of that picture; this is a main reason why the Tokyo venue plan is so compact.

Notice how these sites are obviously surrounded by water. The views would be outstanding -- just imagine the fireworks on opening night, evocative perhaps of the scene in Sydney in 2000. At the same time: is it an issue that the way in and out would be by bridge or, say, water taxi? No one likes to think of the worst case imaginable but that's what planners plan for ... especially in the Olympic business. What if?

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Next: here is Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose -- "I'm a Sunday tennis player, mind you'' -- rallying with London and Beijing Paralympic Games singles champ Shingo Kunieda for the benefit of the Evaluation Commission.

The contrast between Inose and the prior governor, Shintaro Ishihara, has been pronounced. Ishihara controversially injected himself into a diplomatic feud with China over a group of disputed islands. Inose has struck a different tone, indeed, not just playing sports but talking about them and  -- about harmony.

photo courtesy Tokyo 2020

The governor is himself a writer. He tends to find a message, and stick to it. His messages here have included:

His own triumph in the marathon (he ran it for the first time recently, in his mid-60s, after starting out by running just a few blocks around his house); the French literary theorist Roland Barthes, and Barthes' pioneering studies on semiotics, or signs and symbols; and the "sacred haven of nothingness" that is the imperial palace in central Tokyo, "at the very depth" of the Japanese spirit of hospitality, a green space surrounded by modernity, tranquility giving rise to all that is possible now.

"It's one of the elements that should never be forgotten," he said.

Also never to be forgotten is what it's like to travel in the pack that is the Japanese press. Here is the scene at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium Tuesday afternoon, just moments after the Evaluation Commission left, the pack interviewing table-tennis players Ai Fukuhara, 24, the team silver medalist in London, and Koki Niwa, 18, the 2010 Youth Games Singapore gold medalist who played in the London Games but did not medal. What would a U.S. ping-pong player give to be part of such a scene -- just once?

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Across the street from the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium sits the National Stadium, site of so much at the 1964 Games -- for instance, U.S. distance standout Billy Mills' unexpected gold in the 10,000 meters.

Here is the stadium:

photo courtesy Tokyo 2020

Above the facade to the stadium entry, chiseled into stone, are the names of all the gold medalists -- Mills, swimmer Don Schollander, boxer Joe Frazier, all the members of the U.S. basketball team (Bill Bradley, who would later become a U.S. senator from New Jersey, is memorialized as "W. Bradley"). This stadium is also where, on one night in 1991, Mike Powell long-jumped 29 feet, 4 1/4 inches, breaking the record Bob Beamon set in Mexico City at the 1968 Olympics, 29-2 1/2.

There is history here. One of the dilemmas, should Tokyo win, is what to do with those stones because the plan for this stadium is to turn it into a fantastic spaceship-looking structure, at a cost of $1.9 billion, to be ready for the 2019 rugby World Cup and the 2020 Games.

History and the future, the "sacred haven" and what's next -- they exist right next to each other in jam-packed Tokyo. "The building must be re-born," Takeda said.

Here is the formal entry to the stadium.

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 If Tokyo wins, enjoy that view while you can. Because nothing lasts forever. Not even Bob Beamon's long-jump record.


Dwight Phillips' "1111" destiny

DAEGU, South Korea -- Fate is a funny thing. When he got here, Dwight Phillips was randomly assigned bib number "1111." Maybe, if you believe in these things, it wasn't so random.

Three times a world champion already, a win here would make -- obviously -- four. And there it was, spelled out on that bib. Four one's in a row. "Divine intervention," Phillips said.

With a second jump Friday night of 8.45 meters, or 27 feet, 8 3/4 inches, Phillips got that fourth championship. In so doing, he staked his claim as one of the finest long-jump champions in American history.

Bob Beamon. Mike Powell. Carl Lewis. These are names that are part not just of U.S. sports history but of American culture.

Of course, the fact is that all three of those gentlemen competed at a time when track and field occupied a very different place in the American sports firmament.

Beamon threw down his insane jump in Mexico City in 1968; Powell, the all-time jump in Tokyo 20 years ago; Lewis, that memorable last Olympic leap in Atlanta in 1996.

It's Dwight Phillips' lot that he is jumping now, when he has to fight for air time on ESPN with football, football and more football.

It's Dwight Phillips' fortune that, if Joe Fan were picked out of a crowd in the United States and  asked to name somebody famous in track and field, the likely two answers would be Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt, and one of those guys is Jamaican.

It's Dwight Phillips' predicament that, on the night that he won a fourth championship, to go along with the Olympic title he won in 2004, some number of the American writers here seemed way more interested in whether Allyson Felix, who got a bronze Friday night in the 200 to go along with the silver she won earlier here in the 400, was going to attempt the same double next year in London at the Olympics. Moreover, the four Americans in Friday night's shot put final -- none won a medal, and that created a buzz, too.

What's Dwight Phillips supposed to do about any of that?

Nothing, he figures, but be himself -- gracious in victory and, when it's the case, in defeat as well.

"I'm  a very positive person," he said. "LIfe for me is about being happy and smiling. I think I just enjoy  winning and I know how to deal with losing. Some people can't fathom losing. It kind of crushes them when they do. Me -- I embrace defeat just as I do victory."

When you lose, he said, "Obviously you're mad. You're angry at yourself. But then -- it's only track and field. It's only a track meet. There are so many more important things in life than athletics, and I try to keep things in perspective. Life is precious. You only live one time. I think you should live it with a smile."

And when you win, he said, and now he had a big smile, "It's euphoric."

Phillips knew losing and winning just this year.

At the U.S. championships, he finished tenth. Dreadful. He didn't even make the final.

That's what happens when you're hurt -- a woeful left Achilles tendon.  But, he said, he knew that if he could get himself healthy, and stay healthy, he could deliver here. "It's not how you respond in victory," he said. "It's how you respond in defeat."

Let's face it. At championships, Dwight Phillips is money.

The 2003 worlds -- gold. The 2004 Olympics -- gold. The 2005 worlds -- gold. The 2007 worlds -- bronze. The 2009 worlds -- gold.

Here, in qualifying, he jumped a season's-best 8.32, or 27-3 3/4, to lead the field.

In his first jump in the final, he went 8.31, 27-3 1/4. That was exactly the same distance he went in his qualifying jump in Athens in 2004. At this point, who wants to believe this stuff was all random? With all these omens? "It was déja vù all over again," Phillips said.

The second jump, that 8.45, nailed the gold.

"I came into this competition -- I wasn't even picked to make the final," he said, and that's true, publications such as Britain's Athletics Weekly noting that Phillips had "been in indifferent form."

Maybe that was a typographical error. As he proved yet again, at the worlds Dwight Phillips is, indeed, in different form.

"When it comes to long jump, over the last decade, I think it's about longevity -- if you compete over numerous years," he said. "And over the last decade, I've held it down for the USA. I've done my best to represent us well with integrity. I'm so grateful that I can even be mentioned [along] with those great athletes," meaning Lewis, Powell and Beamon.

"I admire them all so much."

Do you ever wish, he was asked, that you could go back in time -- to jump against each or all of them?

"Yeah, yeah. Oh, man, that would have been amazing. Every era has their own athlete. And this era belongs to Dwight Phillips."