Mizuno chooses country over company for 2020 Olympic bidBy Jim Armstrong
TOKYO— Given the choice of staying in the family business or helping Tokyo land the 2020 Olympics, Masato Mizuno knew it was time to put country ahead of company.
The 69-year-old Mizuno stepped down as chairman of Mizuno Corp. last year after 23 years as the leader of the successful sporting goods company to become CEO of Tokyo’s 2020 bid committee.
As Mizuno is an official supplier of uniforms to the International Olympic Committee, Mizuno had to leave the company founded by his grandfather in 1906 to avoid a conflict of interest as a member of the bid committee.
Tokyo, which lost out in a bid to host the 2016 Olympics, is up against Madrid and Istanbul in the race to host the 2020 games.
“After losing out on 2016, I was very disappointed,” Mizuno said at a news conference. “I’m very patriotic and have been involved in the sports industry all these years, so I felt a need to give back to my country. When the IOC told me I had to choose one or the other, I instantly decided to work for my country.”
With Spain’s economic troubles and Turkey’s rising tensions with Syria, many see Tokyo as the most stable option for the IOC, which will pick a host on Sept. 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires.
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, received the highest praise in an IOC report in May, which said the Japanese bid presents “a very strong application.” Madrid has a “strong application,” and Istanbul’s project “offers good potential,” the report said.
Mizuno is the grandson of Mizuno Corp. founder Rihachi Mizuno, who began the family business with a single shop in Osaka in 1906. Over the years, Mizuno Corp. has grown into one of the world’s largest sporting goods companies.
Tokyo was criticized for its proposed budget of $150 million in its failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics, and Mizuno says the 2020 bid is in line with the IOC’s desire to be more fiscally responsible.
“We learned a lot from 2016,” Mizuno said. “This time the budget is about half what it was last time when the IOC felt our budget was too high.”
Public support is another critical factor. The 2016 bid was derailed in part by low public support, and Mizuno said his team is working hard to raise enthusiasm in Japan.
An IOC poll found that only 47 percent of Tokyo residents support the bid, far below the rate of support enjoyed by the two other bidders. The IOC poll showed 78 percent support Madrid, and 73 percent are behind Istanbul.
“This is a critical figure, this 47 percent,” Mizuno said. “We are working very hard to raise the public support. Obviously, a strong showing by our athletes in London would help, but there are many other things we are doing to ensure the support rises.”
Tokyo organizers have said bringing the games to the Japanese capital would generate economic activity of worth $37.9 billion and create more than 152,000 jobs.
Tokyo is also promoting its 2020 bid as symbol of recovery from last year’s earthquake and tsunami than left more than 19,000 people dead or missing on Japan’s northeast coast.