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Tokyo bidders increase push to host 2016 Olympics

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TOKYO — Tokyo should host the 2016 Olympics because it has the most compact set up, the most experience and will be the best stage for the world's athletes, one of Japan's top sports figures and bid backers said Thursday.

Mikako Kotani, an Olympic bronze medalist in synchronized swimming and the head of the athletes' commission for the Tokyo 2016 bid committee, said she has big hopes that Japan's capital will beat out Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid when the final decision is made on the host site next Friday.

"We have the experience to make the competition go smoothly," she said in an interview with The Associated Press, noting that Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Games. "We will be using some stadiums and venues from 1964. ... It will be very special for the Japanese athletes and for the younger generation."

Kotani, who won her bronze in Seoul in 1988, said that Tokyo's plans would have all the athletes staying within 10 minutes of their competition venues, a factor she expected will boost performances by allowing the Olympians more time to focus on their sports and less on traveling.

"As an athlete, this is very important," she said.

Tokyo is also planning a "carbon-minus Olympics," in which fewer pollutants like carbon dioxide would be produced.

"These will be the `eco-Games,'" she said. "This is a very important issue to the world now."

Although public support for Tokyo's Olympic bid started off slowly, it has been building in recent weeks as the decision nears. Tokyo bid organizers say $4 billion has already been set aside for the Games and are promoting their city as the best organized and most dependable of the candidate sites.

Along with Tokyo in 1964, Japan has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in Nagano in 1998 and Sapporo in 1972.

Japan's new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has sent a letter to International Olympic Committee members assuring them of his government's total support for Tokyo's bid.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Hatoyama reassured the IOC that the government's support for the bid "remains as strong as ever."

The IOC will vote on the host city in Copenhagen on Oct. 2.

Japanese organizers have urged Hatoyama to travel to Copenhagen for the vote. He has not announced yet whether he will go.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson in London contributed to this report.