Olympics: Tokyo bid backed by Japan Olympic family

TOKYO - Tokyo's ambition to host the 2020 Olympic Games was endorsed by Japanese athletics chiefs and Olympians Thursday, as the nation looks to spur recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) brought together 60 athletes and sporting officials to call on Tokyo's metropolitan government to formally enter the city for the 2020 Games.

The city's governor, Shintaro Ishihara, last week said he would bid for a Tokyo's second Olympics - the first was in 1964 - to drive Japan's recovery from the March 11 natural disasters and ensuing nuclear crisis.

Tokyo is expected to formally announce its candidacy to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) next month and will find out if it has won in September 2013. Tokyo lost its bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.

"It will serve national interests that the people of the nation unite as one to bid for the Olympics as a symbol of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake," JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda said in the group's meeting with the governor.

Takeda said that the JOC was considering staging Olympic football matches in the disaster-hit northeast region if the Games bid was successful.

Among the Japanese Olympians backing the bid was women's wrestling gold medal winner Saori Yoshida who said she would defy the age barrier to compete in the event on home soil.

"I may be retired by 2020 but I will come back and aim for the Olympics if Tokyo is chosen as the 2020 host," the 28-year-old said. "The Olympics provide a chance to encourage and cheer up the people of the nation."

Yoshida, who has won two consecutive Olympic and eight world championships gold medals, will be 38 in 2020.

Her ultimate goal is to break Russian Alexander Karelin's record of 12 straight Olympic and world titles after next year's London Games.

Governor Ishihara told the meeting that Tokyo would do "as much as it can" to secure the event.

The 78-year-old avid sailor also urged the Olympians present, including Yoshida and two-time 63kg women's judo champion Ayumi Tanimoto, to bring home more golds at next year's London Olympics.

"Fight as hard as you can and bring home more medals no matter how next year," Ishihara said. "Otherwise, you don't lift the spirits of people."

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Japan won nine gold medals, six silvers and 10 bronzes for a total of 25 medals, compared with a record haul of 37 in Athens four years earlier.