- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

TOKYO (AP) - IOC inspectors concluded their first meetings with organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Friday and said they were impressed with preparations for the games and inclusion of women on the board.

Coordination commission chairman John Coates toured the venue sites and met with members of Tokyo’s organizing committee during a three-day visit to the Japanese capital.

“We were very impressed with everything that was reported to us and everything that we saw,” the Australian vice president of the International Olympic Committee said.

Coates praised the appointment of 10 women among the organizing committee’s 34-member executive board, and called for further efforts toward diverse representation in the Olympic preparations.

Tokyo’s Olympic committee, headed by 76-year-old former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, had come under criticism for the lack of female and younger members on the executive board.

“We congratulated president Mori on the composition of the executive board,” Coates said. “We were particularly pleased to see the addition of 10 women and the inclusion of a total of seven Olympians on the board. Diversity and gender balance is very important to us.”

The coordination commission serves as a link between the IOC and Tokyo’s organizing committee. This was the panel’s first visit since Tokyo was awarded the games in September.

The commission was given a presentation by former Olympian Seiko Hashimoto on efforts to ensure Japanese athletes perform well at the games.

“I was very pleased to see that early attention is being given to this by the Japanese Olympic Committee,” Coates said.

The 2020 Olympics are being billed as a hope for revival for a nation that has been stagnant for decades and has been rocked by natural and man-made disasters in recent years, including the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“We certainly share the vision of the organizing committee to give hope to those families affected by the disaster through sport,” Coates said. “That wasn’t discussed here but that’s a given.”

For Japan, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the games are a nostalgic flashback to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics that were critical in stimulating new infrastructure and modernization.

Coates said the possible reintroduction of baseball and softball for the 2020 Games was not discussed, but the issue is “on the table” and should be concluded at the IOC’s extraordinary session in Monaco in December.

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