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Japan leaders reconcile over troubled 2020 Games

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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and PM Shinzo Abe shake hands as they pose for photographs at the start of their first meeting since Sunday’s election © Jiji Press/AFP

TOKYO, Japan, Aug 4Japan’s troubled 2020 Olympics will be a success, Tokyo’s new governor insisted Thursday, after she and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put aside political differences for the good of the Games.

Tokyo’s Olympic preparations have suffered high-profile setbacks including soaring costs, allegations of corruption and an embarrassing misstep over an allegedly plagiarised logo.

Responsibility for fixing that now lies with Yuriko Koike who became the first woman to be elected chief executive of the megacity at the weekend, in a vote held after the previous governor resigned over a financial scandal.

She and Abe are both from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but Koike was elected in a landslide over the party’s favoured candidate.

The LDP had refused to back her in the election for failing to seek its approval before announcing her candidacy, with a top party official calling her “selfish”.

But the pair looked set on mending fences Thursday, shaking hands as they posed for photographs at the start of their first meeting since Sunday’s election.

Abe told Koike she had “won a point” over the party with her resounding victory.

“The government will cooperate with Tokyo,” he said in remarks aired on television.

Koike told the prime minister that “the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics must be successful for both Tokyo residents and the Japanese people.”

“I’d like to see us cooperate for that objective,” she added.

Abe and Koike both plan to go to Rio de Janeiro later this month for the closing ceremony of the 2016 Games, where Koike will receive the Olympic flag in a handover.

She has promised a formal review of the megacity’s problem-plagued preparations for the 2020 Olympics as concerns grow over soaring costs which could potentially double or even triple from the reported original forecast of $7.14 billion.

She said she will create a special panel to check whether Tokyo tax money is being used appropriately.

The Games were awarded to Tokyo in 2013, with expectations that they would be a model of efficiency.

However, setbacks have included allegations of corruption, with French prosecutors launching an investigation into alleged bribes linked to Tokyo’s successful bid. Organisers have denied wrongdoing.

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