Sport Fans Pack Stadia Across Japan During "Golden Week"

Large and lively crowds filled stadiums nationwide during Japan's Golden Week spring holidays, another vivid demonstration of this country's insatiable appetite for sporting events. Many top athletes vied for invitations to the upcoming London Olympic and Paralympic Games during the competitions, including at the 51st NHK Cup International Gymnastics Tournament on May 4 and 5 in Yoyogi National Stadium, an iconic legacy of the 1964 Tokyo Games.

Kohei Uchimura, a living legend who has won two Olympic silver medals and three consecutive men's all-around world titles, had already been named to the five-member Olympic team in December. Fine tuning for the London Games, Uchimura won the NHK title for the fourth consecutive time with a convincing 93.300 points performance. Kazuhito Tanaka, Yusuke Tanaka, Ryohei Kato and Koji Yamamoto earned the four remaining slots for their first trip to the Olympics. On the women's front, Rie Tanaka secured a berth to her first Olympics with a stellar performance, finishing the program with 55.650 points. Asuka Teramoto, Yu Minobe, Yuko Shintake and Koko Tsurumi qualified for the London Games as well.

Golden Week, a seven-day period with no less than four national holidays, is a favourite time of year for sport federations to organise major events, especially just prior to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This year several Olympic-qualifying competitions drew large crowds of fans eager to display their strong enthusiasm for sport. The events once again showcased Japan's remarkable ability to stage world-class sporting events underpinned by exceptional organisation, technical excellence, unparalleled safety and first-rate public transportation.

Strong attributes such as these are also what make Tokyo 2020 such a compelling bid to organise Games of excitement and innovation in one of the world's most forward-looking cities.

Kohei Uchimura said: "The Beijing 2008 Games was my first Olympics experience, and I was mesmerized by the truly international crowd and atmosphere. The Olympics is incomparable to any other competition I've experienced. Following the tragedy at Tohoku last year, through our performances, I have re-realised the extraordinary power of sports - to heal, unite, and inspire all kinds of positive change. I believe the Olympics will serve as the ultimate platform to provide these positives changes, and I hope to inspire all of Japan through my strong showing there."

Major sporting events hosted in Tokyo alone during this year's Golden Week included, besides the 51st NHK Cup International Gymnastics Tournament, the Judo National Championship (Apr 29), the 2012 London Olympic Qualifier for Trampoline (April 28), Synchro Japan Open 2012 (May 2 to May 5) and the 40th Japan Wheelchair Basketball Championship (May 5), which was attended by the Emperor and Empress. Venues included the Tokyo Budokan, Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre and Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, all sites built for the 1964 Games but through the Japanese' loving and meticulous maintenance have been kept in superb condition as top-notch facilities for countless international competitions over the years.

Among the events held outside of Tokyo were the 2012 London Olympic Qualifier for Hockey in Gifu Prefecture from April 25 to May 6 and IAAF SEIKO Golden Grand Prix Kawasaki (qualifying competitions in Athletics) in Kanagawa and Oda Memorial Athletics Competition in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Masato Mizuno said: "The excitement surrounding sporting events during Golden Week shows just how strong Japan's passion is for sport. Exhilarated crowds filled stadiums across the nation to see many of Japan's best athletes, creating feverish excitement as we point to the London Games. If Tokyo receives the honour of hosting the 2020 Games, it's easy to envision the electrifying atmosphere that impassioned Japanese sport fans would help to create."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce its short list of Candidate Cities for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the IOC press conference in Québec City, Canada on May 24 at 7:30 AM (Tokyo time).
Artistic gymnasts

Artistic gymnasts support Tokyo 2020

Artistic gymnasts

Artistic gymnasts support Tokyo 2020

Synchronised swimmers

Synchronised swimmers support Tokyo 2020